• United States

Systems and storage staff responsibilities

Jul 06, 20043 mins
Data Center

* Reader asks which of his staff members should be responsible for storage

From time to time, I get especially interesting e-mail from my readers.  Here’s one that came in last week from South Africa, but it could have come from just about anywhere.

It turns out that many of the IT problems they have down there are identical to those we have north of the equator.  I have summarized his lengthy note and have paraphrased to a large degree, but hopefully have captured the sense of what the writer is looking for.

He works for a large banking group in South Africa, where his role involves infrastructure planning, tech support, architecture design, and “looking at storage strategies” for what seems to be a complex IT environment. IT hardware consists of Wintel, mainframe and Unix machines.  Virtual tape supports mainframe storage, tape robots are available for Wintel and Unix, and a staff of seven (two each dedicated to mainframe and Unix, three assigned to Wintel) provides backups and basic maintenance.  Several other services are “outsourced” to groups other than his.

A few other points:  Unix storage is on a storage-area network (SAN). The Wintel servers (2,000 of them) are distributed across several locations.  And my correspondent is charged with making recommendations that will rationalize the IT process and provide as much efficiency as possible.

You can see that his shop is fairly complex and that his challenges are many. Peer below the surface however, and you will see, as he does, that there are even more complications than appear on the surface and that these are only indirect because of the technology involved. 

The writer obviously understands the complexities of his multiple storage environments, but he also understands an additional issue. As result of this, he provided me with an interesting question that I am now going to share with you:  If the mindsets of Unix, mainframe, and Wintel staff are so different (he assumes this to be true, and my experience indicates he is right on with this statement), is there a potential for increasing rather than decreasing his problems if the three groups share storage?

He throws out an additional poser as well:  If he puts his Wintel and Unix storage on a SAN, who should manage the SAN switch?  The Wintel guys?  The Unix guys? The storage guys?  How are other places doing this, he asks, and what are best practices?

This is clearly an IT manager who understands that assembling and running an IT staff is more than an exercise in moving names about on an organizational chart.

IT managers often don’t come equipped with a degree in psychology or sociology, and it is perhaps a shame that this is the case. 

The storage mantra of late dictates that storage should be networked, that it should be virtualized and, to whatever degree possible, that it should be automated in order to provide cost-efficient storage services to all the stakeholders across the company.  And the current logic (at least the logic that is current among the storage vendors) dictates that storage professionals should manage the SAN switches because the equipment is part of the storage infrastructure.

But none of this addresses the real issue that my correspondent is asking about.  He lives in the real world you see, and knows that people have to interoperate at least as well as their technology does. More on this next time.