I’ve been in professional services for over 8 years now, most of that has really centered around data storage. I spent a period of time implementing EMC commercial systems for an EMC contracted services partner, I then spent a few years contracted to do the same for NetApp. In the mix of all of this I worked for EMC, IBM, HDS, and NetApp resellers with exposure to almost all of the systems on a technical pre-sales basis and post-sales implementation efforts. Out of my experience I have formed some fairly strong and, I’d like to think, informed opinions of what should be in “enterprise” storage systems.
Now during all of this time consulting on storage systems they were always connected to something. In the earlier years (as if it was so long ago…) it was generally application servers, and really just physical Windows hosts. At the time I never even had to make a distinction that it was “physical”, because, really, there was no other option. Yes, on occasion I worked with “virtual” systems through Sun Solaris, HP-UX and IBM AIX systems..but even these were somewhat rare, and many of them weren’t very virtual at all (virtual hardware didn’t exist). As time progressed the type of systems connected to the storage evolved, and I had to support them all. A storage system without any connected servers isn’t very useful, it can make lights blink, burn electricity and generate heat, but their usefulness without servers really ends there.
As projects changed with the evolution of applications and what businesses determined were critical the storage systems proceeded from supporting application servers that primarily included databases (e.g. MS SQL, Oracle, etc) to supporting email systems (e.g. MS Exchange). It was really interesting that in the beginning most customers considered email to not be “valuable enough” to justify shared storage, but email quickly evolved into being one of the most critical applications in all of our environments right behind telephony. As it turns out, communication is a critical function and we all prefer email for broadcast.
Of course, this all changed even further as we look at the recent years. VMware quickly became the primary “server” I was connecting to storage. This matured from being a couple of servers in an environment would be running ESX to all servers operating ESX, this happened in a far shorter time than it did for the progression from only databases to also email on these storage systems. There are so many variables in deploying virtualization that my informed opinions of storage systems became more validated (at least in my mind), as flexibility became more important than ever.
All of this is to say that a good “storage consultant” never knows just storage, though I know plenty of one-hat experts that can provision storage all day long but can’t ever plan for the actual requirements of the application on the other end of the communication chain. I always had to keep pace with understanding the application that was connected, as the storage was always a critical piece of meeting SLAs either for performance, availability or data protection. Storage architecture without awareness of the application will always fail to meet requirements. Now that being said, I wouldn’t ever consider myself a DBA or an Exchange administrator, in part because I wouldn’t want either job, but I know enough to architect storage to meet business requirements for those applications.
Of course, that evolved into the same for virtualization…but with a distinct difference. Virtualization changed how storage is managed, provisioned and how data is protected. If I was only consulting on the small storage portion of a project my billable utilization (critical measure of success in the professional services environment) would have been pretty small, probably less than 25%…however due to my awareness of the other components and dedication to learning VMware I was easily able to fill the other 50-75% of my time with the virtualization components.
I’ve been really fortunate in the past about keeping ahead of the curve, my first “real” tech job was in the ISP/telecom space. This evolved from being in a support center for business leased line customers (DS0, DS1, DS3, OCx, etc) to being more involved on the managing and planning the backend network. As I watched the ISPs fade away and consolidate I saw this as the tea leaves telling me that not as many router jockeys were going to be needed, so I switched into the more traditional IT role…as every company has an IT department.
This all changed when my wife and I moved across the country for her to attend law school, I left a perfectly good job that I hated to move to a new job market where I knew no one. By luck, I found a job traveling as a storage consultant and that progressed to where we are today.
The next advancement in my career was due to the realization that the IT industry is yet again changing. It doesn’t take much time reading Gartner reports or other IT business case studies to realize that virtualization is here to stay, and the next logical evolution is Cloud Computing. I have now moved to the next step along my career path and joined the industry leader in creating Cloud Computing solutions, VMware.
I am more excited today about my job than I have been in a long time, I just hope I can keep pace with the shifting tides and the evolution of such a radical change in the industry. I join a team of individuals that I have a lot of respect for and look forward to learning from within the VMware vCloud Services group.