Calling all admins: Know thy applications

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Digging into application performance characteristics can help you deliver solid service levels and fight unnecessary spending

All but the smallest IT departments tend to compartmentalize skill sets. After all, hiring high-quality network, server, and storage admins is hard enough without attempting to recruit candidates who are strong performers across multiple IT tasks. Plus, "siloing" skills works as an organizing principle: It cleanly separates responsibilities among different members of the team and ensures that each portion of data center infrastructure gets its due.

Too bad technology is trending in a completely different direction. Data center technologies are become increasingly converged and virtualized, and as I've pointed out in the past, it's getting harder and harder to survive as a network guy who knows nothing about storage -- or vice versa.

But that's not the only drawback to the siloed approach. Another side effect of siloing is that the infrastructure team invests too little effort in understanding what makes applications tick from a technical perspective.

In most IT organizations, each mission-critical application has its own dedicated administrators. But these application-centric administrators seldom have a deep understanding of the infrastructure running underneath and depend on the infrastructure team for design, implementation, and support. In turn, the infrastructure team, which could generally care less about the application, depends upon the software vendor for guidance on how to deploy the application so that it gets the resources it needs.

This application delivery chain -- from the end-user workstation, through the network, to the application stack and servers, and all the way down to the storage infrastructure -- is only as strong as its weakest link. All too often the weakest link is between the applications team and the infrastructure team (especially when isn't a skilled DBA in the mix).

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