Operational Support Structures and Cross Skilling

I’m currently working on the design phase of a Data centre for my client and the topic of operational support was being discussed.

The client currently has about 10 people in IT who are split between the following functional areas:

  • Service Desk Operators
  • Technical Support Engineers (business applications/services)
  • Network administrators
  • vSphere/Storage administrators.

I put forward the suggestion of consolidating the Infrastructure components into a ‘Data Centre Services’ group who would be responsible for core infrastructure services:

  • Compute (in this case hypervisor is vSphere)
  • Storage
  • Network
  • Backup/Archive.

Not only was this model ultimately adopted by the organisation, but it has proven very successful. Gone are the days of core services being managed disparately because now, all the administrators are part of the same team.  Admittedly, this may only work in smaller environments (and these people tend to be more generalists than specialists), but as we continue to plan the infrastructure moving forward, we still get good representation from these areas on what technical/operational requirements need to be considered.

As long as everyone gets the chance to have their say (to promote ownership) and that education is provided to individuals to cover off any internal FUD, scaremongering or lack of comfort (and lets face it these are normally the biggest barriers to overcome when introducing change), then this can make building functional requirements more productive and result in a better aligned decision.

Admittedly it hasn’t all been coated in rose petals and plane sailing, there have been administrators who just don’t get it, individuals who have been pushed too far out of their comfort zone, even after several attempts to get them ‘on board’ so to speak.

But isn’t this the nature of working in the Information Technology industry?

Isn’t it all about riding that wave of change?  Now, I have always been and will always be an agent of change and I really do not get when people work in this industry who are not ‘comfortable’ when things change around them, I have seen individuals loose their technical currency over a really short period of time due to this (hint: use it or loose it).

Which brings me to the point  of this post (finally), my belief is that there isn’t much of a future for system administrators unless they start adapting / evolving and start to cross skill.

This is especially true if you are working in the infrastructure space, Virtualisation has already consumed Compute for breakfast, Storage was next on the menu for lunch, it is currently taking Network out for dinner and is working it’s way up the stack for a late night snack of applications before the day is over!

How do you resolve this problem in your organisation? What have you done to converge your staff along with your infrastructure?

I think that’s it, I look forward to your feedback and I hope this blog generates some interest/debate.

2 responses to “Operational Support Structures and Cross Skilling

  1. So good points here Craig, we’re talking about the same thing were I work. This will be helpful information in our discussions.


  2. Pingback: Infrastructure Wag with Mike Laverick | blog.rack.org.au·

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