My mom had a laugh way back then, when I got my first job in this industry: ” I always knew you’d wanted to be an architect,” she said, “but why does it have to be closets and garages?” That was me, Storage Architect at last!
These days, when another parent at the soccer game or church asks what I do for a living, I go through a little semantic dance. I start with business consulting, move on to big companies and their computer systems, and finally mutter something about data storage. If I told them I consulted in the field of enterprise storage, they’d probably think of big parking lots and a rental car agency. It was different in Massachusetts, of course. There, I could just say ” the stuff EMC does” and they would have a pretty good idea.
But EMC, and Massachusetts, is not the real world, bringing me to today’s topic: information, data, and storage. We are storage people, and we work in the storage industry, but storage is not important to the world at large. They think about information, first, and occasionally about data. Mostly, our industry is a negative in the real world: “my computer died and I lost my data”, or “my credit card company lost a tape of personal data”.
Even in business, nobody cares about ILM, virtualization, thin provisioning, iSCSI, or any of the topics that we spend all our time focused on. Data storage is a necessity to build cars, drill for oil, sell mortgages, and so on. If they can do these things efficiently without so much IT infrastructure and investment, then they probably would. In the meantime, they’ll keep the lights on the IT until something else better comes along.
What can we do? Well, we had better start by making sure that we are as valuable to the business as we possibly can be, keeping in mind that data storage should never be a priority at a major company. We need to keep more humility, realizing that the business cares about information, knows about data, and ignores storage, and this is really how it should be. We need to make sure that we take care of the business data entrusted to us, and that we keep the storage infrastructure out of the way.
We can do this by focusing our efforts in two ways: make sure our data storage infrastructures are bulletproof, and help the business understand our data storage capabilities on their terms. Storage technology, and storage managers, are getting pretty good at keeping things working. So let’s stop putting so much attention on the latest and greatest storage devices, and start thinking about better ways to care for the data that has been entrusted to us.