Who Runs The Show?

The ringleader of a circus is the one with the hat. They run the show.

In a small company, the IT department consists of one or two admins who do everything. They look after the database, the network, the PCs, the phones. Everything. The one guy is always wearing the hat.

In a large company, there are dedicated teams of people who do nothing but respond to automated alarms. There are lots of hats, being worn by different people.

Dealing with both of these markets simultaneously has been a significant challenge for vendors thus far. Their tools are continually confused by who needs to be wearing which hat at what time.

Here’s why.

Empower the Users

Empowerment sounds great. I mean, you’re giving people power, right? Giving end users the power to look after themselves has got to be good, right?

Well, maybe. But not always. Because self-service means I have to know how to do things. Sure, I could change my own oil, but I’m a techo who would rather go to work and earn money than spend three hours of my weekend doing what I consider to be work that I don’t get paid for and don’t enjoy.

Yet this is how many vendors design the administrative interface for their tools. As the user, you can look after yourself. Even if you don’t want to.

I want to be able to give my hat to someone else sometimes.

You Break It, You Bought It

So what if I screw up and break something? If it’s my car, it’s my problem. I know it’s my fault, and I pay the penalty.

But what if I didn’t get a choice about whether I had to look after my own stuff? What if I never got the right training in how to use the tools?

How might I feel when the storage guys call me to ask why I deleted the base snapshot? Or filled up the snapreserve because I did a data load last night?

I didn’t ask to be given this hat. And it doesn’t fit properly. I hate this hat.

The User is the Admin

In a small company, the database guy is the storage guy. If I need to create a new LUN for the database using SnapDrive, I can. Awesome.

If I need to check that the overnight snapshot backup worked ok, I can log into NetBackup and see for myself. Easy.

If I want to fail the system over to DR to check the process works, I can log in and kick it off myself.

Coordination is easy when I’m coordinating with myself. I always know who’s wearing the hat, because it’s me.

The User is Not the Admin

If we scale up to a big company, now the user isn’t the admin. Remember our dedicated teams? The database is looked after by a completely different team to the storage team.

In fact, the database team might report to a completely different level three manager. They might even work for a completely different company, because we outsourced.

So now how do I deal with the empowerment? If I’m using SnapManager[1], the DBAs now manage their own backups, but I still have to grow the volumes, or create new vFilers.

Or if the application guys do a data load and use up all the snapreserve space, so it grows into active filesystem and runs out of space, and then the database falls over, and I get to fix it.

Because the DBAs and app guys don’t look after the storage. That’s my job. I have the hat.

Who’s Job Is It?

I don’t want to give the database guys full administrative control of the storage, because they’re database guys, not storage guys. They don’t have the training, experience, or more importantly, the time to admin the storage the way the storage team wants it done. They’re busy running AWR reports, creating indexes and doing statistics updates.

I’m busy configuring SnapVault relationships and figuring out where to put new volumes. I don’t want to have to create new database indexes, or do reorgs. That’s the DBA’s job.

They run the database show.

I run the storage show.

Division of labour is one of the biggest contributors to productivity of all time. So why do vendors keep trying to undo all that by assuming that the same person will be doing all the admin tasks?

Why does there have to be just one admin hat?

A Better Way

You don’t have to choose between one way or another. You can have both.

How? By thinking in terms of hats.

When I’m growing a volume, I’m wearing my storage admin hat. When I’m taking a database backup, I’m wearing my DBA hat and my backup hat.

So when you’re designing an administrative tool, keep in mind which hat you need to be wearing when you use it. Make it easy for me to change hats.

Provide Role Based Access Control that allows different people, or the same person wearing different hats, to do different things.

Check your assumptions constantly. Can the database system do this via the vFiler, or do they have to access vFiler0? Can I delete a qtree as easily as I can create one?

It’s far, far easier for me to put on three hats than to have three people wearing one hat.

Because whoever’s wearing the hat, runs the show.

[1] I’m picking on NetApp in this post, but I know the other vendors have the same problems, so don’t go crowing about this on twitter. You know who you are. All hardware sucks, all software sucks. D,NA.

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