Hyperconverged Infrastructure

The Hyperconvergence of Teams

As physical hardware in the data center begins to converge, a question arises. Especially in enterprises with very distinct infrastructure silos, who will manage this stuff? The storage team will say, “There’s no way we’re allowing VM admins to manage that much storage – they’ll never know what to do with it!” On the contrary, the server team will say, “There’s no way we can leave all these compute resources under the care of the storage team!” It’s quickly apparent that there is organizational change required in light of this technology change.

First of all, how is an organization to respond to this situation? Second, what is an individual to do in light of these changes? And finally, what is at stake here? If nothing changes and business-as-usual rules, what does the organization risk?

Organizational Change

Handling the displacement of personnel resources that takes place when hyperconvergence becomes the default method of provisioning can be orders of magnitude more difficult than grasping and embracing the shift in technical architecture. As it turns out, people don’t care for change. And engineers are notoriously territorial. How, then, does a business handle this paradigm shift?

It’s simple, really. Remove the silos!

Of course, it’s not that simple in reality. But the truth is that in a data center where hyperconvergence reigns supreme, teams have no choice but to work in tandem. Tearing down intra-departmental silos has been preached for years, but hyperconvergence is where the rubber meets the road. As a matter of fact, hyperconvergence could well be the catalyst that finally allows a department to see success in this area. By empowering different teams to work together to manage the virtualization platform, the business will benefit from increased efficiency and reduced time to resolve issues/outages.

I believe organizations and departments facing this change must provide resources (this includes time!) for administrators that were previously single-disciplinary to cross train with other administrators. Enabling the whole team to become multi-disciplinary in their proficiencies is the future of a healthy IT team.

Personal Growth

Growing is rarely easy, but it’s worthwhile every time.  When an individual finds themselves a part of a team where hyperconvergence is in a trial phase or in the early stages of adoption, there’s no better time to begin learning about technologies outside of what is known and comfortable.

A virtualization administrator who handles the care and feeding of production VMs day in and day out can begin to dabble in storage technologies. He or she may want to develop an understanding of deduplication and whether post-process or inline deduplication is preferred. An understanding of data integrity and how a storage system will ensure data is safe at all times will help them serve the team moving forward.

On the other hand, a storage administrator whose life for the past decade has been creating LUNs, managing RAID groups, and adding enclosures may want to start learning about virtualization. They may want to learn about how a hypervisor schedules resources on the physical hardware, or about how high availability in the hypervisor cluster is handled.

Growing outside a stated area of expertise will help an individual’s career path, as well as provide immediate value to the business. Working together becomes dramatically simpler if two people are speaking the same language. For example, “I believe we’re experiencing high disk latency on this app server because the server’s datastore LUN shares a RAID group with the production database datastore” is a lot easier to troubleshoot together than “This VM is slow.”

Does It Even Matter?

Of course, maybe this shift – both organizationally and personally – seems too hard. Maybe there are those who would prefer things stay the way they are.  Often we can think of our infrastructure problems the way Dave Ramsey says people think of their money troubles – like a dirty diaper. “I know it smells bad, but it’s warm and it’s mine.” We’re tied to the inefficiency and dysfunction in the infrastructure because we have ownership of it. And to say that it isn’t working well may seem to indicate that we were ineffective in designing or managing it in the first place.

But more important than pride is the success of the organization. Without overcoming this fundamental shift in the way that storage for virtualized workloads is consumed, the current infrastructure may end up relegated to the same dark corner of the server room where we keep the AS/400 and the Windows 3.1 floppy disk set. Refusing to address this change could lead to a sacrifice in efficiency and effectiveness that leads to the demise of a project, or worse, a business.

Hyperconvergence is not a panacea for all infrastructure woes, but to neglect the potential benefits because change is hard would be foolish. Determine now to view change as a challenge and potential catalyst rather than a burden and hindrance. At an organizational level, put your silos in a metaphorical blender and puree them. At a personal level, view this changing landscape as a huge opportunity to make yourself stand out in the crowd. There will be many who struggle to embrace change – there always is. And as they always do, they’ll be left behind. Take this opportunity to transition from idle bystander to leader, and maybe teach someone else!