Skills that a Storage Admin #MustHave

EMC World 2015

EMC World 2015*

CoreOS FEST 2015

CoreOS FEST 2015**

Hey yo…

May is always the fully loaded month in the IT calendar. Microsoft Ignite, CoreOS Fest, SAP SAPPHIRE, EMC World, IBM Edge and more. Keynotes, hands-on labs, mentoring sessions and  disruptive new tech on display. With that said, where does that leave the IT guy. For the technologist, new tech means new skills. And right now in the Cloud-SDDC era, what skills are in demand and what are going to be ? Which ones to pick ? What route to take ? Well, the answer seems… “It depends”. I know it sounds cliche perhaps even vague. All this new tech may mean new skills for the techie, but for the business owners it means new options. So, what are our options, what new skills does the storage admin need to adopt. From my crystal ball, just kidding folks ;), I foresee 16 skills in demand for the storage guy. I’m presenting them in 2 sets . First set of five, are the Skills in Demand. And the second set of eleven, the New Tricks. Here we go… !!!

Skills in Demand

1) Data Migration

Data Migration covers storage platform migration, application migration to new storage, moving operating systems to new storage, consolidation of data or database instances etc. Most migrations today are P2V conversions, V2V conversions, Cloud migrations etc. The tools we are accustomed to are still in demand like rsync, Hitachi’s Universal Replicator or EMC’s Open Replicator but the new stuff like EMC VPLEX, VMware’s Storage vMotion, NetApp MetroCluster are becoming the norm if not already. Every storage admin should seek to undertake as many migration projects as possible and those who have are golden. Storage admins, experienced and new, this skill is certified #MustHave !

2) Replication

Often referred synonymously with Business Continuity Management, local and remote replication are among the routine tasks of the storage admin. Yes, automation has crept in this realm. But, without expertise in replication the storage admin’s toolkit is incomplete. EMC’s SRDF/TimeFinder for VMAX, Hitachi’s TrueCopy/Shadow Image and NetApp’s SnapMirror/SnapVault are the industry’s leading remote/local replication solutions. However, over the years EMC RecoverPoint (RP) has been a revelation in the sphere of BC/DR. Admins once had to use different tools for every platform, whether physical or virtual, and RecoverPoint (RP) changed that with its “One Solution” approach. And now with EMC RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines, we have a VMware hypervisor-based, storage agnostic, software only data protection tool enabling local, remote and concurrent local and remote replication with continuous data protection for recovery to any PiT. #RP4replication #MustHave !

3) NAS

The dedicated, high performance, file sharing and storage device that provides ease of deployment, improved efficiency, flexibility and centralized storage (I know it sounds textbook), has not only entered datacenters but seems to be staying put for the foreseeable future. With its cousin Scale-Out NAS becoming more mainstream as we speak, embracing NAS seems inevitable. Scale-Out NAS has already carved a niche in Big Data and CCTV-Security solutions and traditional NAS a prominent feature in vSphere and Hyper-V. Hence, NAS ~ #MustHave

4) Shell Programming Languages

Shell programming languages have been used for repetitive task automation and will be doing so. Tasks like monitoring systems, data backups or creating snapshots, creating email based alert systems, finding available and free memory or finding info about local or remote servers, are automated with shell programming languages. With VMs and Containers taking helm, more processes would be preferred automated. Korn (ksh), Bourne Again (bash), Tickle (tcl) or C (csh), pick one and learn or as many as possible. If you are a Windows guy, then PowerShell is your weapon of choice. Bottomline, definite #MustHave for the storage admin’s toolkit.

5) VMware vSphere

The vSphere/ESXi hypervisor is the market leader in server virtualization. Yes, Hyper-V is hot on its heels. RedHat KVM and Oracle VM have improved leaps and bounds as well. But with vSphere 6, VMware is taking the fight to the competition. According to Bill Ferguson, author of The Official VCP5 Certification Guide, the new vSphere 6 is more powerful, more manageable, more secure and more flexible than any previous release of vSphere. It will be fun to learn how you can use it best for your own IT environment. And storage guys know that storage is an essential component of a vSphere design and provides the foundation for the vSphere environment. A successful vSphere design is based on a solid storage design that addresses capacity, performance, availability and recovery. So, Storage admins this is #MustHave indeed !!!

The New Tricks

1) Software-defined Storage (SDS)

According to techtarget.com, SDS is an approach to data storage in which the programming that controls storage-related tasks is decoupled from the physical storage hardware. It also states that, SDS places the emphasis on storage-related services rather than storage hardware. With the rise of DataCore and their SAN Symphony-V solution, SDS may be in your datacenter sooner rather than later. EMC and VMware are catching up with their offerings of SDS. With that said, EMC announced that the ViPR Software-defined Storage would become open source in June this year. Another vendor offering open source SDS like RedHat. IT is undergoing a paradigm shift and storage is a big part of it. Check the playlist below for SDS offerings from VMware, DataCore, EMC, HP and IBM

2) Cloud-based Disaster Recovery

Expensive and complex are two traits connected with traditional Disaster Recovery (DR) solutions. The challenge in supporting the ongoing maintenance of traditional  DR solutions would force organisations to operate within limitations. Cloud-based DR, however, seems to have changed the game. How ? By providing simple, affordable and automated processes for recovering  data. As per 451 research, Cloud-based DR is expected to grow at 21% CAGR over the next several years and the storage admin should probably sleep on it. For more info on Cloud-based DR check out this ebook from VMware on this link.  Also below, is a playlist from vendors offering cloud-based DR solutions – AWS, VMware, Microsoft and Zetta – 

3) Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI)

SimpliVity states, at the highest level hyperconvergence is a way to enable cloud-like economics and scale without compromising the performance, reliability and availability you expect in your own datacenter. It has also been stated in techtarget.com, Hyper-Convergence (hyperconvergence) is a type of infrastructure system with a software-centric architecture that tightly integrates compute, storage, networking and virtualization resources and other technologies from scratch in a commodity hardware box supported by a single vendor like Nutanix, VMware, SimpliVity, Scale Computing, NiMBOXX etc As IT transforms in the direction of SDDC, HCI have been deemed the building blocks of SDDC, especially by VMware. And also, the hyperconverged systems market grew 162% in 2014 that shows rapid adoption. This skill is certified #MustHave !

4) Open Source Software (OSS)

Open source software has penetrated in datacenters and has become integral. And it all started with Linux. The big names like IBM and Oracle supported it and the newcomers that have become big names selling it – RedHat and Suse, have made OSS mainstream. Now, there is a new generation of OSS on the horizon that shall change and disrupt – OpenStack, Docker, CoreOS, Kubernetes and Flocker.

OpenStack is for service providers, enterprises, government agencies and academic institutions that want to build public or private clouds. 150+ companies support the mission of OpenStack and boasts of one of the fastest growing open source communities in the world. OpenStack provides redundant, scalable object storage using clusters of standardized servers capable of storing petabytes of data. It also provides persistent block level storage devices for use with OpenStack compute resources. For more info click here.

In my earlier post I had stated, “Docker is the software architecture that is eating the world. It also seems that Docker and LXC have won the market’s heart. And like Google, AWS, Microsoft, Red Hat and VMware, I too find myself on the Docker bandwagon. Why ? As I look past the hype and hyperbole, Docker is the real deal. How so ? When VMware came out with their server virtualization solution they offered features and functionalities like vMotion which none did, initiated P2V transformations across workloads in the datacenter. VMs have come a long way. Migrating mission critical workloads like Oracle, SAP, Microsoft etc to virtualized environments and new solutions in the offering like VSAN, VVOLS, NSX etc. VMs are the norm for SDDC. But, Docker being open source, meaning agility and elimination from vendor lock-in, offering light-weight virtualization and better performance than VMs depicts the potential of this technology.“. Every major IT solutions vendor is embracing this technology. Storage admins shouldn’t ignore either.

Launched in 2013, CoreOS had raised $20 million in Series A funding. It is also listed in CNN.com‘s 11 Startups to bet on in 2015, and has started a Linux Container as a Service to go up against the Cloud’s next big thing – Docker. Apart from Google, RedHat and VMware are also avid supporters of CoreOS. VMware announced support for CoreOS’s appc and shipped rkt in its Project Photon, making rkt available to VMware VSphere and VMware vCloud Air customers. Worth the hype ? I guess so.

The rise of Docker and CoreOS are evidence to the claim that Containerization has become one of the most important areas of innovation for modern computing. And Google doesn’t plan to sit idle, thus Kubernetes. Kubernetes is an open source manager for Docker containers. It helps you squeeze multiple Docker containers onto the same machine so that you can get the most out it. With Microsoft, RedHat, IBM, Docker, CoreOS, Mesosphere and SaltStack as active contributors it won’t take long for Kubernetes to creep in your environments.

ClusterHQ have created an open source tool named Flocker. It is a data volume and container manager that enables a container holding a stateful component to be live-migrated from one server to another without any loss of transactions, service or downtime. It is based on the ZFS file system and utilises ZFS based volumes at the back-end in combination with a network proxy at the front-end to enable stateful containers

5) New Stuff

Splunk, Veeam and Druva inSync are 3 new and exciting solutions the storage admin should make note of. Splunk Enterprise is a software platform to search, analyse and visualise the machine-generated data gathered from the websites, applications, sensors and devices, that comprise your IT infrastructure or business. Current features include – Indexing, Data Model, Pivot, Search, Alerts, Reports & Dashboards. As far as industry adoption is concerned, Hyperconverged Infrastructure market leader Nutanix have had success virtualizing Splunk workloads. And the Splunk app for NetApp’s Data ONTAP provides an essential building block  in data infrastructure monitoring. Fast Company has listed Splunk in its Top 10 most innovative companies in Big Data of 2015.

Veeam Software was born on July 1 2006. Its flagship product the Veeam Availability Suite has helped this company grow exponentially with 145,000 customers worldwide. Veeam brings backup and replication in a single solution to increase the value of backup and reinvent data protection for both VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V virtual environments. HP, EMC & NetApp are partners with Veeam and provide GTM solutions. This skill is certified #MustHave !

Formed in 2008, Druva is a specialist in backup for mobile devices. It is currently “the brand” in BYOD backup. It offers continuous backup for mobile devices with data deduplication and connection awareness. The flagship product inSync, provides automated backup of laptops, smartphones and tablets, data-loss protection on portable hardware via encryption and centralised visibility of devices and content. November 2014, Druva Inc earned the new AWS Partner Network (APN) storage competency designation from AWS and is sponsoring the AWS Summit in Tokyo on June 2nd. This company is definitely one to keep tabs on and Druva inSync may soon become DevOps’ favourite tool if not already.

My “2 cents”… the role and responsibilities of the storage admin aren’t going to change completely. Tasks of the admin like Zoning, ISL trunking, Creating RAID groups, Creating LUNs, Provisioning LUNs etc aren’t going to be irrelevant. But on the same token, paradigm shifts are taking place across the entire stack with disruptive technology. Hence, I reiterate, new tech means new skills for the techie. The skills I deemed #MustHave I think shall have a demand if not already across the industry. The ones I haven’t are the ones I would keep tabs on because they are disruptive in their own right and shall affect the daily tasks of the storage admin eventually. Still, does it seem overkill ? It may now. But, as techies we need to stay ahead of the curve as there is always the next big thing looming on the horizon and as knowledge workers, investing in our expertise is quintessential.

So, if you folks agree, somewhat agree or completely disagree I would like to read your comments on this topic below.

*I do not own copyright of the images presented in the collage. It is attributed to its owners and the original version can be found here.

**I do not own copyright of the images presented in the collage. It is attributed to its owners and the original version can be found here.

Sources –

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