5 Storage Administrator Survival Tips

With cloud and automation upending traditional data storage management, how does a storage admin remain relevant? Here are some ideas.

Jim O'Reilly

May 15, 2018

6 Slides

IT administration is under siege today. Automation is the buzzword in computer management and that holds true for data storage. The traditional storage admin has to wonder if he or she has is a future in IT or if it's time to become an Uber driver!

The cloud has precipitated this changing and volatile environment. For large cloud providers that are massively scaled, automation is the only option To compound the storage administrator’s woes, though, the decline of the storage area network (SAN) clearly indicates that traditional skills of LUNs and rebuild windows won’t suffice much longer.

But there’s a huge opportunity in the new storage approaches! We already are seeing a rich ecosystem of new tools and approaches. On the one hand, we have small, but ultra-fast solid-state drive appliances, while an alternative architecture leads us to hyperconverged systems. Around each of these is a constellation of software products to manage and optimize storage operations. All of these provide a place for those admins willing to expand their horizons to find a meaningful co-existence with automation.

My first tip for survival is to make yourself useful to the business. No, that doesn’t mean becoming the go-to man for SANs! Your managers and the CIO all feel that grim reaper too. They’ll want to explore alternatives, so learn enough to test out new storage technologies. You don’t have to be an expert; remember, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king! But you have to know enough to be credible. 

The new storage solutions are going to look like Lego parts, with a huge variety of pieces complementing the basic bricks. You'll need to gain some software skills and learn best practices for putting these pieces together in a way that best fits your company.

With some foresight and willingness to go beyond their comfort zone, storage administrators can weather the rapidly changing IT environment. Read ahead for ideas on how to extend your storage career into the future.

(Image: Igor Drondin/Shutterstock)

About the Author(s)

Jim O'Reilly

President

Jim O'Reilly was Vice President of Engineering at Germane Systems, where he created ruggedized servers and storage for the US submarine fleet. He has also held senior management positions at SGI/Rackable and Verari; was CEO at startups Scalant and CDS; headed operations at PC Brand and Metalithic; and led major divisions of Memorex-Telex and NCR, where his team developed the first SCSI ASIC, now in the Smithsonian. Jim is currently a consultant focused on storage and cloud computing.

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