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Consumerization of IT leads to accidental storage admins

One of the ongoing changes in IT is the transition to IT generalists configuring and managing storage in all but the largest enterprises. This was always common in small enterprises, but now is increasingly the case in the mid-tier enterprise, too. Beyond storage, the IT generalist handles server operating systems, networking, and the virtualization hypervisors.

Another dynamic occurring along these lines is called the consumerization of IT. People that use technology such as smart phones or iPads in their daily lives are becoming administrators at the IT generalist level. The general consumer technology user:

· Must know about setting up accounts and security.

· Understand how to protect data in the cloud.

· Know how to migrate data to a new device.

· Understand about setting file sharing options such as access to photos on Snapfish.

What has happened here?  IT operations have become part of many people’s lives.  Most are doing these administrative tasks out of necessity with no training other than some interactive guidance.  Some do it incorrectly, some struggle through the administration, and others provide services – in my case, I’m the admin for the PCs, etc. for my daughters.

This shift even changes the way midrange enterprise storage is managed. Element managers (the storage vendor’s storage system management software) must be designed with expectations that an IT generalist will manage the storage environment.

Storage vendors should assume the IT generalist using the element manager has a limited base of storage knowledge. They should expect that no manual will be read either on paper or in electronic form. And they should realize that when there is a complex set of choices, they should assume the wrong one will be tried first and correction action or second chances will be necessary.

This leads to the demand for a new GUI that is highly interactive with icons to demonstrate actions and status. The GUI must seem simple, belying the underlying complexity.

Without a plan and real education, we’ve created a mass unpaid workforce of IT generalists.  So, when do we get a new generation of storage administrators without planning for it?

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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