Why storage administrators have become bandwidth day traders

Simon Sharwood

Virtualisation has “removed the natural constraints for server deployment” and the result is fierce competition for storage area networks’ resources and a new role for storage administrators, according to Josh Stephens, management vendor SolarWinds’ Head Geek.

“We have found that a big part of the need for storage management today comes from virtualisation,” he told SearchStorage ANZ. “Virtualisation is the biggest user of storage today and it is making the bottlenecks” that storage managers are being asked to address.

Their efforts to do so, he said, are caused largely by multiple uses of thin provisioning that sees storage infrastructure become oversubscribed. Storage managers are left to juggle resources to ensure virtual machines have access to the storage their designers intended, even if those designers did not imagine the competition for capacity and bandwidth that VM sprawl creates. Solid state disk complicates matters by increasing data flows.

“It is about input/output latency and how much you can push in and out of the system,” he said. “I/O can even be an issue in the chassis.”

The result is a scramble for resources that falls into storage administrators’ laps.

“They need to optimise capacity, not periodically bit constantly. It means some seat of the pants real-time jockeying.”

“It’s like day trading on margin: you are betting that before you need that money something will happen to make it available.”

“More rigorous processes” Stephens said, will help curb VM sprawl as “ a third of the problem comes from frivolous server creation.”

But beyond that, he believes storage administrators need capacity optimisation tools that span the SAN, regardless of vendor, to get the job done.

SolarWinds – it’s no coincidence – sells just such products and asserts they work very well in the scenarios Stephens describes.

But he also said that the company is getting lots of attention from administrators, not IT managers and or CIOs.

“IT practitioners make the decision they want our and tell their boss to write us a cheque. We rarely talk to CIOs or IT managers.”