Pundits Ponder Potential Pitfalls

Check out this list of career-threatening situations to avoid

September 6, 2006

5 Min Read
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As storage grows in importance within businesses, so does the potential for high-profile snafus and career meltdowns. If you avoid the following pitfalls, you could be the toast of the boardroom. Ignore them, and your career could end up as toast.

Bridge the Skills Gap

"Storage managers and storage administrators need to start taking education outside of IT in areas such as business management and project management," says William Hurley, senior analyst at the Data Mobility Group, adding that this can be a "career breaker."

According to Hurley, around 40 percent of all IT projects either fail or come in below expectations, thanks in part to lack of project management experience on the part of key personnel.

These sentiments are echoed by Thornton May, executive director of the IT Leadership Academy, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based consulting firm, and an MBA tutor at Ohio State University. "Storage people tend to be isolated in occupational caves," he explains. "They are subterranean beings, and they need to get out into the light of day."Storage conferences, warns May, are not the places where storage managers can pick up these skills. "Its like going to a family reunion and expecting to date," he says, adding that storage managers should start talking to their counterparts in other parts of the business, such as marketing.

Beware a Midrange Crisis

Could a major deployment of midrange systems tie your existing storage SLAs (and your career) in knots? Hurley cautions that a shift in storage can bring bad luck without the proper preparation, particularly with the growing popularity of midrange storage such as EMC's Clariion family and HP's EVA portfolio. (See EMC Hiccups, Waits for Clariion, HP Plans EVA Facelift, and HP Hoists New Storage Products.) "In the past 18 months we have seen more and more pressure to use less expensive midrange arrays for different workloads," he explains.

But shifting these workloads from, say, a high-end EMC Symmetrix, adds new levels of complexity to existing SLAs, according to Hurley, who warns that users must weigh the cost benefits of a midrange array against the resiliency offered by a high-end device. "Storage admins need to be much savvier in terms of agreeing to the right SLAs," he says. "It's imperative to remain on top of these things."

Jeff Mery, a storage administrator working in the manufacturing sector, told Byte and Switch that up until now, his firm has avoided midrange storage. "Midrange is midrange for a reason, typically it's not engineered to be in the same class [as high end storage] for uptime and performance," he says.Keep an Eye on Security

Barely a week seems to go by at the moment without yet another data security problem, from missing media at NASA, Los Alamos, and Time Warner to lost laptops and the threat of hacking. (See Houston, We've Got a Storage Problem, Los Alamos Fallout Continues, Tape Security Trips Up Users, Enterprises Suffer Breaches, and Breaches Stress Need to Improve.)

Not surprisingly, these events are increasing the pressure on storage managers to lock down their data. "The biggest problem, I think, is data security," explains one CIO from a Nevada-based library district, who asked not to be named. "The pain point is actually backing up the data and getting it onto tape in a way that is quick."

The CIO, whose organization uses CA's BrightStor ARCServ software for backup, admits that he is now looking at other backup solutions in an effort to speed up this process, although he would not say which vendors he is speaking to.

But Jeff Mery warns that choosing backup software is easier said than done: "From a backup perspective, you have to get down into the details, you have to get your hands dirty."Storage managers, according to Mery, should also be prepared to combine different backup technologies. "Disk-to-disk is not a panacea for everything, and tape is not a panacea for everything, you may need to use a mix."

Don't Pick the Wrong Vendor

There is much more to deploying a new technology than just speaking to a vendor's reference customers, warns Greg Schulz of analyst firm The StorageIO Group. "When you make a decision, are you ready and willing to bet your career on it?" he asks.

Choosing a startup over an established vendor can either make or break a career, according to the analyst, who warns IT managers to beware of the political fallout. "If you're going with a startup, the incumbents will be whispering in peoples' ears [within your company]."

Users, of course, can mitigate this risk by doing their homework and checking the startup's financial track record, partners, and backers, although Schulz believes that storage managers should pull other execs into this process. "Cover all the bases," he explains. "Get more people involved in the [procurement process] -- get multiple finger-prints on the murder weapon."Take Care With Virtualization

Storage managers, warns Hurley, should take a cautious approach to virtualizing their storage infrastructure, lest they fall into the same trap as their server counterparts. "They should pay close attention to the lessons that are being learnt by server systems managers," he explains. "We have heard of people on the server side over-consolidating through virtualization and causing availability problems."

For these reasons, adds Hurley, storage managers should not bite off more than they can chew when it comes to virtualization. Users may need to virtualize data across multiple arrays.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • CA Inc. (NYSE: CA)

  • Data Mobility Group

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • The StorageIO Group

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