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Changes in the way businesses store and manage data in the next decade will force IT personnel to adopt new skills or look for a new job. In turn, solution providers specializing in storage will need to make changes in the way they do business to adapt to the evolving technology landscape.
The growth of cloud storage, convergence of storage and servers and influx of flash storage -- along with an increased need to gain business intelligence from data -- are driving fundamental changes in IT operations. For IT personnel, the focus will be less on the nuts-and-bolts of building and running the IT infrastructure and more, or even exclusively, on how to derive value from that infrastructure.
Among the hardest hit will be the "cable monkeys" -- the folks with screwdrivers in their pockets and cables hanging around their necks. With the advent of converged infrastructures and reference architectures where a vendor or distributor is handling much of the assembly and configuration work, much less of that will be done at the customer site.
Closely following the cable monkeys into obscurity will be the straight storage administrators, said Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at ICI, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider.
As the adoption of flash memory technology permeates the storage industry, IT departments will no longer be concerned with such details as managing RAID groups, Shepard said. Instead, storage, along with applications and other parts of IT, will be managed at the virtualization layer.
"VMware server guys, and anyone who is VMware-certified, will be the most important people in the company," he said. "Companies will virtualize all the servers and applications, and the VMware server guys will be the people customers turn to learn about or get help with their applications."
Those virtualization experts will become much more storage-centric as well, Shepard said. "They'll make storage more flexible," he said. "New technology will let them manage storage on-the-fly. Or with intelligence increasingly built in storage arrays, the arrays will manage the storage automatically."
Claus Mikkelsen, chief scientist at Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), said skill requirements in storage will actually follow the same path as what happened with automobiles.
"As a youth, I got greasy under the hood," Mikkelsen said. "Today, if I open the hood, I don't recognize much of what's under there. With storage, sure, things will need to be set up and tuned. But who knows what engine or carburetor is in there."