Storage revolution shuffling IT jobs

Storage has been a big part of the company's explosive IT growth. Data has doubled every year for the past three years, to 80TB at the end of last year. Among other things, Tucson Electric needs to store maps and high-resolution images of its coverage area so it can install power poles in the best locations, Rima says.

SANs and virtualization may have been the company's two saviors, but they have also made the IT department's work more complex. "They are so intrinsically linked, it's unbelievable," Rima says. This created a need for a new position: storage architect.

"Instead of somebody who's solely doing administration work ... the architect is somebody who takes a step back and says, 'OK, how do I design the architecture to take advantage of virtualization, data protection [and other factors]?'" Rima says.

That person needs to understand both storage and virtualization, and specifically technology from NetApp and VMware, Rima says. Finding the right person outside the company would have been virtually impossible, he says. So Tucson Electric trained a storage administrator, who is due for the promotion soon.

Adventist Health, a hospital operator in Roseville, Calif., had a generalist handling its data center until it implemented a SAN and virtualization. It then hired a small team of specialists for each new technology, says Greg McGovern, Adventist's CTO. Despite the supposed simplicity of centralized storage and processing, the company also is relying more on support from vendors, he adds.

"It looks simple on the surface. It looks complex when it stops working or slows down," McGovern says. If a doctor in the field complains an application running over the network has slowed to a crawl, vendor support is often called in. "I think I've got WAN engineers who can handle it, but I need more assurance," McGovern says.

Pund-IT's King thinks many more companies will face these kinds of challenges as storage grows rapidly in importance as well as in terabytes.

"People are still trying to get their heads around how to do this," King says. The falling price of storage equipment only makes things worse, he added. "Anybody can afford enough data storage to get themselves in trouble."

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