Last week I explored the question, Do IT managers really “manage” storage anymore? In that post I talked about a shift I am seeing with a lot of the clients I work with, from specialized storage scientist administrators to a new breed of virtual environment, converged infrastructure and cloud admins I call the iPod generation. These folks have been brought up with a whole different level of administrative expectation. They have no desire or expertise to deal with unique knobs and dials on each type of device the way a storage scientist does when he tunes the environment. Instead, they value learning an outcome-based interface approach once and then using it for everything. These are the guys and gals who say “I like the Apple interface across my laptop, tablet and phone”.
Interestingly, there is another environment where the iPod generation flourishes. They do well as jack-of-all-trades administrators in small and medium businesses (SMBs). If for no other reason than scale, IT administrators in SMBs tend to be responsible for compute and storage and backup and networks and workloads and so on. The simple fact that there is a lot of variety can severely impact the productivity of these administrators. You can imagine the value they would find in a single interface that could span the infrastructure.
My view is that this is one reason virtual datacenters are rising rapidly in SMBs. The recent IDC Worldwide SMB 2013 Predictions research agrees with the trend pointing to the growing importance of virtualization for servers and storage with 2013 being a key year for expansion beyond midmarket into larger small businesses. To highlight the benefits SMB administrators could enjoy, I’ll illustrate a specific use case with a virtual server environment using VMware vSphere.
An administrator working with VMware has the option of administering all virtual compute resources from the VMware vCenter interface. But, as mentioned above, there is a lot more to the daily care and feeding of an SMB datacenter than just virtual servers. Fortunately for the administrator, VMware has done a good job of opening up the interface for vCenter plug-ins from third party providers to add many of the capabilities the jack-of-all-trades administrator needs to routinely access. Backup capabilities are a good example.
IBM, as a third party provider, purpose built an exceptionally efficient backup tool uniquely for virtual server environments. It’s called Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments (TSM for VE).
The snapshot and disk-based backup capabilities of TSM for VE include de-duplication and incremental-forever technology for extreme efficiency, keeping software and infrastructure costs down. For the administrator, IBM has fully integrated the TSM for VE interface into VMware vCenter.
Now, for backup at least, the jack-of-all-trades administrator who grew up in the iPod generation can perform all their virtual server and backup administration from the same interface.
What do you think? Are you, or do you work with an SMB IT administrator? Is jack-of-all-trades or iPod generation a fair characterization of who you are?