In search of the jack-of-all-trades

As converged, virtualization-based infrastructures become more common, who holds the keys to the infrastructure?

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Not quite -- if you're using VMware's popular vSphere hypervisor and vCenter virtualization management framework, chances are that you'll at least consider implementing VMware's SRM site failover management software. At its heart, SRM is really an automation tool. All of the tasks it does, you can do manually without it. That said, it saves a tremendous amount of time by automatically building a site recovery script that can be executed or tested with the click of a single button. With many regulatory auditors starting to expect organizations to demonstrate their failover capability, it's becoming much more critical to have.

Among other things, SRM automates the process of cloning or promoting replica volumes on your secondary site SAN and mounting that newly available storage on the secondary site virtualization hosts so that the recovery process can proceed. That by itself blurs the line of operational responsibilities between server and storage administrators. Of the dedicated storage administrators I know, very few would be happy about an automated tool over which they have no control logging in to their SAN environment and making changes.

That's not where the administrative control challenges end, either. Another thing SRM can do is dynamically re-provision recovered virtual machines to use different network settings to match the network in place at the secondary site. Yet how many of us can say that we can run into our server rooms and change the IP address of every server without disaster ensuing due to a hard-coded IP in some long-forgotten custom code?

Sure, you can find and fix every potential problem that might be caused by a hard-coded IP, but who wants to do that? A better plan is to make the net block that the virtualized servers run on portable from site to site. It's arguably easier to pick that entire subnet up and move it across the WAN to the secondary site through the use of a dynamic routing protocol than it is to change the addresses of every server that is to be failed over. (Try and explain that to your network architect if they haven't designed the WAN to accommodate that.)

You certainly can implement this kind of failover and keep the boundaries between server, network, and storage administrators intact. But the end result will always pale in comparison to an implementation that was designed looking at the big picture.

The impact of the convergence of server, storage, and network infrastructures is hard to predict, but it's already starting to result in a much greater demand for engineers with generalized skillsets. Staffing and maintaining competencies in the face of a fully converged infrastructure is huge challenge that I don't think many organizations have fully wrapped their minds around yet. The old days when a storage admin could be blissfully ignorant about the servers and the network are long gone.

This article, "In search of the jack-of-all-trades," originally appeared at Read more of Matt Prigge's Information Overload blog and follow the latest developments in data storage and information management at

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