Enterprise storage is undergoing massive changes, and those changes include the roles of the storage administrator and related jobs.
Cloud storage remains a popular choice, even as organizations repatriate some workloads to the data center. That, in tandem with the growing role of automation in storage, is forcing admins to learn new skills.
Yet, technology is changing in other ways that bode well for the future of the storage administrator. Hyperconverged systems, faster SSD appliances and emerging technologies, such as storage class memory, composable infrastructure and computational storage, all must be deployed, managed and updated by IT pros with extensive storage knowledge. In addition, anything data-related is in demand.
Amid the chaos, there are four major questions admins should consider as they look to the future.
1. Which technologies are changing the storage admin job?
The most obvious change in recent years is the adoption of hybrid multi-cloud environments. Storage admins must manage data across several clouds, as well as the data center. This includes traditional tasks, such as capacity planning and data security, along with cost optimization.
Admins must also know how to use software-defined storage, which abstracts data storage and management from the storage hardware. Software-defined storage can improve storage management but comes with a significant learning curve.
In addition, the future of the storage administrator includes composable infrastructure, AI and machine learning, quantum computing and persistent containers.
2. Are some storage skills transferable to other up-and-coming tech areas?
Despite the ways in which technology is changing, storage admins don't need to throw away everything they know about storage and start over. They will need to learn many new skills in order to keep pace with changing technologies and remain competitive in tomorrow's job market. Still, existing skills are often foundational to mastering the new skills that IT will require.
The storage administrator must be able to manually manage storage, even in the era of AI and storage automation. The reason for this is simple: AI isn't perfect. Unless storage admins have a good working knowledge of foundational storage management techniques, it is unlikely they will be able to recognize when AI makes a mistake. In addition, foundational skills are important in situations where it becomes necessary to override an automated task.
3. Is becoming an IT generalist a good step?
Enterprises typically look for employees with a strong background in one specific area. Such an organization might, for example, recruit employees to act as storage administrators, Active Directory administrators, network engineers or help desk technicians.
Some employers may value admins who have a broad skill set that augments their skills pertaining to a specific role, however. It isn't so much that the organization is looking for generalists, rather having supplementary skills may help an IT pro see the big picture, as opposed to being laser-focused on one specific area.
In contrast, SMBs often value IT generalists more so than an enterprise might. Smaller shops typically have a limited IT budget. They, therefore, need employees who have a wide range of skills and who aren't afraid to learn new ones, even if those skills are outside the employee's normal area of expertise.
4. What types of projects are best to get involved in now?
This answer depends largely on the organization and on your overall career goals.
Many organizations are heavily focused on their data lifecycle management efforts. Some of this work is a way to ensure the organization meets regulatory data retention requirements. Yet, much of data lifecycle management also focuses on purging old data as a way of driving down storage costs and reducing legal exposure.
Flash storage optimization is a hot area. Flash storage has been around for a long time, but as the technology continues to mature, organizations sometimes find they need to rethink the way they use it. Flash storage optimization involves examining flash-enabled workloads to see if opportunities exist to improve storage durability or to drive down costs through data reduction or other means.
The future of the storage administrator might also look at ways to use automation and orchestration throughout the organization. Automation can help workload scalability and storage provisioning. Additionally, automation is useful for data migrations, storage cost optimization and even disaster recovery.