FCoE: The Birth of the SLAM Admin

We have LAN admins. We have Server admins. We have Storage admins. Each with its own culture and methods of doing things. Perhaps the biggest issue surrounding convergence is the need to converge people’s skillsets. I propose that teams that are going to be working together start seeing themselves as a joint SLAM (Storage and Local Area Management) admin, part of an overall SLAM team.

We can go over the numbers as often as we wish. We can talk about asset reduction, the “cloud,” the savings, but the one thing that is absolutely crucial is to talk about how all this is supposed to be put together and maintained.

Everything is connected to everything else. Within the bailiwick of Servers, Networks and Storage this is even more true, as the law of unintended consequences turns ripples of change into tidal waves.

The Elephant in the Room

As I’ve listened to much of the conversations surrounding FCoE, its implementations and implications, and the one thing that is glossed over more than any other is how the culture of these three separate silo’d entities should somehow magically drop their adversarial positions and somehow “just get along.”

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It does us no good if the technology works together, but the people don’t

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We need to expand the scope of our own team-oriented fractal. Whereas before if we worked in host systems, we saw ourselves as managing OSes, VMs, and physical connections to the network. Anything beyond that was the network’s problems.

For instance, virtual switching – in particular the Cisco Nexus 1000V – changed that. Suddenly we’ve moved the network into the host, and neither network nor server admins could ignore the implications of what that entailed.

With the virtualization of everything along the pipe, from the hosts through the network to the storage itself, each administrator has a right to know what’s going on in someone else’s pool, since the waters are starting to blend together in very real ways.

Enter the SLAM Team

The SLAM Team breaks down those silos that can cripple a successful implementation of a converged Data Center.This team is directly responsible and accountable for the entire system, the entire process. This team needs to understand the End-2-End (E2E) implications of changes, the overall planning, and the longitudinal approach for converged networks.

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The separate administration cultures need to evolve into a holistic one

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A SLAM admin may be responsible for implementation or maintenance of a specific portion of the system, but is knowledgeable about the consequences of his actions as it relates across the Data Center. He knows that his effort now is E2E, not just limited to within his own specific limited realm, works with the entire SLAM team to keep the system the priority.

The result is that the culture of the administrative teams evolve over time to gel into a more holistic one. A SLAM admin understands that he’s part of a larger, more systematic approach, and the overall SLAM Team accepts the responsibility for All Things Data Center.

The Goal

The technology is cool; there’s no question about that. But if it was trivial then just anyone could do that, and we know – although there are incredibly obtuse CIOs who seem to think otherwise – that it takes incredibly talented people to make the system work. They’re often overworked, under-resourced, and overwhelmed.

It does us no good if the technology works together, but the people don’t. If we are trying to change the way we think about technology, modifying the metaphors with both hard and soft benefits (e.g., quantitative and qualitative), we need to change the metaphors about the people as well.

The risk is entrenchment. The solution is expansion and inclusiveness. The Data Center of the Future will not be run using ancien ways of thinking. It doesn’t need a sequence of admins, it needs a holistic team. A SLAM team.

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7 Comments

  • Matthew Povey June 4, 2010 at 15:46

    And the generalist is back. Great blog and a smart acronym for the people who’re needed to support the new world. There’s a good argument that organizations have always needed (and in fact, often had) these sorts of people. They are and were, the people who thought in terms of systems and interactions rather than components, interfaces and borders of control.

    The critical thing is that specialisms are still important. In fact, they are no less important than they ever were, but now the specialism must be complemented by an understanding of the systems we work with and how our actions affect and flow through those systems.

    I think there is another benefit that comes from this. By allowing IT teams to be systemic in their approach and by breaking down the borders, it may be possible to rebuild ‘trust’ between the people who make up IT. That in turn reduces the level of rigour and control that is required of process. It doesn’t eliminate it (and nor should it necessarily) but when one can trust that the actions of a colleague are made with an understanding of their systemic effects, IT teams will be more able to trust one another to just get things done.

    I see this as the flip-side of infrastructure agility – recapturing the dynamism of small team IT organizations within the much more complex environments of enterprise IT.

    So let’s get the SLAM teams built (where they’re not quietly building themselves already) and rebuild trust in the IT team.

    Reply
    • J Michel Metz June 4, 2010 at 15:53

      Amen, and thanks for the comments. Obviously I agree. 🙂

      First person who shows me their title on a business card that’s “SLAM Admin” or “SLAM Team,” I’m buying them a beer. Or any other beverage of their choice. 🙂

      Reply
  • Aneel June 6, 2010 at 14:06

    Couldn’t agree more. Like you say, this goes way beyond just FCoE or Virt. This goes to the heart of data center operational, services, sales, product, etc organization. The only caveat from me is that this is not a generalist. It’s something very specifically different. It’s more like being T (or pi) shaped.

    Reply
  • Seth Godin: Creating Tribes to Drive Change « Blog Stu – Stuart Miniman June 9, 2010 at 07:48

    […] Data Center Officer (CDO) for merging various disciplines.  J Michel Metz (Cisco) recently put a proposal out for a new SLAM (Storage and Local Area Management) Administrator to help with the bottom-up adoption of […]

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  • Seth Godin’s Tribes Idea and Adopting Convergence « Wikibon Blog June 9, 2010 at 07:51

    […] Data Center Officer (CDO) for merging various disciplines.  J Michel Metz (Cisco) recently put a proposal out for a new SLAM (Storage and Local Area Management) Administrator to help with the bottom-up adoption of […]

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  • David Vellante June 9, 2010 at 19:00

    Couldn’t agree more JM re: the elephant in the room. Organizations should start there then worry about the technology. Networking guys are always moving stuff around and making changes and storage guys are like “Touch my SAN and you die!” SLAM those two worlds together without some organizational thought and what do you get?

    Slammed!

    Reply
  • Coffee With Thomas Episode 3 – Cisco’s FCoE Superman « Niketown588 June 18, 2011 at 09:39

    […] Cool concept of SLAM Admin […]

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