Just a few years ago, it took a much larger employee base to administer enterprise-level IT. Each staffer operated in a silo, managing a variety of areas that included storage. Like a Russian doll, these silos were broken down further into still more specialties. All told, the storage team of a large/global enterprise could be made up of as many as 100 throughout the enterprise.
Today, the idea of 100 staffers just to administer storage seems fantastic, as the IT staffs have focused more and more on their software and dev environments than their infrastructure. That old staff-size wasn’t bloat, however: Each member was considered vital, because complexity of an enterprise’s storage estate was a major issue; everything was complex, and nothing was intuitive.
But then revolution happened. It was introduced in the form of the 2008-2009 extensive worldwide economic downturn. Driven by the collapse of an unstable housing market, every sector of the economy stumbled, and businesses were forced to focus on leveraging technology for IT innovation. This disruption was followed by the AI Big Bang, and over time, a dissolution of traditional roles.
IT professionals suffered, especially within the storage industry. In many enterprises, as much as 50% of the storage workforce was pink-slipped. Despite this, the amount of data we’re administering has skyrocketed. IDC forecasts that by 2025, the global data sphere will grow to 163ZB or a trillion gigabytes.
IT employment levels eventually stabilized, but according to Computer Economics, organizations are experiencing productivity gains without accompanying significant increases in spending. In other words, IT organizations are getting more with less. Virtualization and automation have been speeding tasks, and the servers themselves are much faster than they once were.
Bureau of Labor Statistics says employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 13% from 2016 to 2026 for all IT jobs. IT staffers will nonetheless perform an extensive range of activities, says Gartner. In the next year, beyond management of software and hardware across applications and databases, servers, storage and networking, IT teams will also be expected to evangelize, consult, broker, coach and deliver solutions to their organizations.
Hiring managers will therefore increasingly focus on cultivating teams with more versatile skills, including non-IT functions. IT professionals must also be prepared to embrace education and certification initiatives to hone specialized skills that are broad enough to transfer to other platforms and verticals. Training will be the new normal.
The right tool for the job
Storage specialists will need a clear understanding of how systems can meet the needs of their enterprises. As with any hardware, IT admins require the right tool for the right job. They need to remember that a one-size-fits-all option is not a valid solution. Just as an expensive supercar can't replace a city bus, some systems work better for their specific needs than others.
That means teams shouldn’t just throw money at a problem, but consider variables such as proximity to compute resources, diversity of performance, capital expenditure versus operating expenses and more. In general, storage professionals will need to right-size their solutions so they can scale to their changing needs. As with any purchase, no one wants to waste money on what they don’t need. But they also shouldn’t underestimate their long-term requirements in a manner that eventually hobbles their business. We've all heard the stories of enterprises held back by their storage systems.
Fundamentally, however, faster is usually better. Faster systems can provide more in-depth insights while responding to customers almost instantaneously. A system suited to your needs can also boost the performance of your existing applications. IT staffers will need to look for solutions that come with a portfolio of management tools. To improve storage efficiency, look for a solution with data reduction technologies like pattern removal, deduplication, and compression. And faster storage offerings leveraging flash technology have impact beyond the storage environment and associated applications to entire clouds and data centers.
With such tools, enterprise operations can maximize their resources for optimal speed while also reducing infrastructure costs across their compute and storage environments.
Get in tune with modernization
Storage professionals will need to embrace automation. Each storage pro will need to learn it, leverage it and understand its various use cases. In fact, teams should seek out as much automation as their vendor can provide, because their jobs will only continue the shift toward managing capacity with small staffs.
Additionally, IT pros will move to converged infrastructure, which simplifies IT by combining resources into a single, integrated solution. This approach reduces costs and while also minimizing compatibility issues among servers, storage systems, and network devices. Converged infrastructure can boost productivity by eliminating large portions of design, deployment, and management. Teams will be up and running faster so they can put their focus elsewhere.
Storage professionals should embrace their new hybrid job descriptions. They'll likely need to reach beyond their domain skills, certifications, and comfort zones. As job their jobs continue to evolve, storage professionals will become hybrid specialists as the old silos will continue to collapse.
Some desired job skills are already evident, such a working knowledge of cloud. Others may be less so: Those with an understanding of the basics of marketing are more likely to thrive, as they argue for their fair slice of the budgeting pie.
All told, it’s best to get in tune with modernization. After all, it's unavoidable and fundamental to the IT workplace.
Eric Herzog is Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President, Worldwide Storage Channels for IBM Storage Systems and Software-Defined Infrastructure. Herzog has over 30 years of product management, marketing, business development, alliances, sales, and channels experience in the storage software, storage hardware, and storage solutions markets, managing all aspects of marketing, product management, sales, alliances, channels, and business development in both Fortune 500 and start-up storage companies.