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Is the Rise of Storage Appliances Good Or Bad?
I think it is a combination of reasons that is causing traditional SAN-based storage environments to become a thing of the past.
First and foremost, the lack of well-trained people that could optimally configure and maintain large complex systems has had a negative impact.
Third, the vendors did not see the writing on the wall. They had too much of a good thing—or they thought they did. Why was there never integration end-to-end with file system vendors to make things work easily? This lack of cooperation spurred the development of other technologies.
Fourth and lastly (although I am sure you might have other reasons that I have not considered), Linux stifled growth in high-speed file systems as everyone wanted something for free. Heck, we all want a deal, but Linux does not have scalable file systems and good file system SAN management. As the saying goes, there is no free lunch.
What Will Happen to Storage Analysts and Storage Administrators?
Let's assume that I am correct in my assertion that the storage world is changing and we are moving to an appliance model that requires far less administration, monitoring and interaction with the hardware. What is left for storage analysts and storage administrators to do?
One of the things I have learned in almost 32 years in the market is that every newfangled tool still requires people to run it. Users and applications expand to the budgets that are allocated. If the appliance model requires fewer people, you will just find over time that you will likely buy more appliances. In the short term, there might be some personnel reduction, but in the long term nothing will change. Just as with virtualization, the reduction in staff will not last for long, as far as I can tell.
What it does mean is that we in the storage industry are going to have to change with the times or become dinosaurs. This includes all of us. We are going to have to move from management of SAN and RAID configuration to a better understanding of applications and how those applications are mapped onto the hardware. As I said, all of these appliances have tunable parameters. You are going to need to understand how these parameters need to be used for the application(s) and data types that run on the system. This will be a learning opportunity for all of us.
Everyone is talking about how big data is going to change our world. For the most part, I agree with many of the assessments. The amount of data that is going to be collected and analyzed is growing by leaps and bounds. In my opinion, it is only limited by the algorithms and the imagination of the people who are asking questions and developing these applications.
The key to our success is being able to make the move from the old ways and technology to the new ways and new technology.