TechEd North American partied its way to a conclusion last night as Microsoft rented out Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando. Put thousands of software developers into a large amusement park, and there are some observations that just have to be made.
The first is that software developers really love Harry Potter and free food, perhaps not in that order.
The second is that tiered storage is something that every enterprise is going to have to manage in the very, very near future.
Where did the tiered storage come from? I'd love to say there was a special ride at Seuss Landing based on storage tiers, but the truth is that I saw hundreds of people making notes, sending messages and creating images on their smartphones and tablets, and it really brought home the fact that enterprises not only have storage tiers in the datacenters -- the tiers extend all the way out to their employee devices.
Think about it: Most users have information stored on their mobile devices, in the cloud, on their workstations, and in the corporate datacenter. They may also have information on various departmental or workgroup servers. That means that any policies for enterprise storage need to recognize tiers stretching from smartphones to racks of virtualized storage units.
The question for many CIOs is whether a single policy to govern all these storage tiers is the IT equivalent of the Grand Unified Theory that has eluded physicists since Einstein wrestled with a way to tie the quantum and the galactic up in a nice, tidy package.
There is an extent to which we're well into unified theory territory. When it comes to the storage requirements for business analytics and transaction systems, smartphones and tablets rarely come into play. In the back end, we're talking much more about deciding on the data that lives in server memory, on rack-based storage devices, in SANs, or in the cloud when the conversation turns to tiering.
Performance is the primary consideration in this type of tiering discussion, with reliability and security playing lesser roles in the consideration. Storage concerns for user devices turn on access, security, and reliability; relatively few people are having serious discussions about the storage performance of the latest smartphone.
On the other hand, there are some considerations that apply to all enterprise storage, no matter where it sits or what is encoded inside. Every piece of enterprise storage must be secure, available, and reliable. There has to be a way to back up the data on enterprise storage and restore information from those backups. Storage has to be secure from unauthorized access, and the information on the storage must comply with the governing regulations for the industry and the application. The real question, of course, is how to make all of this happen in an efficient, cost-effective manner.
One of the messages of this week's conference was that treating all levels of storage in a unified fashion is much easier if you're using one company's operating environment from end to end. Microsoft has done no small amount of work on Windows Server 2012, Windows 8, and Windows 8 Mobile to make this the case. Now, IT executives like you have to decide whether they've done enough, and whether your organization is ready to take the opportunity to give it a try.
I suspect the coming months are going to see thousands of pilot projects spinning up. Are you in the process of working through a pilot project, or even a planning process? If you are, let me know. If you're not, I'd love to know what stands between you and one of these projects.