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.”

.

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

.

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.

.

The separate administration cultures need to evolve into a holistic one

.

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.

.

You can subscribe to this blog to get notifications of future articles in the column on the right. The opinions and ideas expressed in this blog are solely mine and not that of my employer. You can also follow me on Twitter: @jmichelmetz