We IT professionals are always looking for ways to make our lives easier. It’s not because we are lazy—although, some of the best solutions out there require the least amount of human intervention. The reason is because our goal is to provide the best reliability, stability, and service to the business possible. So if the business isn’t happy, chances are, we are not happy either. After working in IT for the last 15 years, I have seen some things go really well, and others go horribly wrong. Below is a short list of ten concepts that really matter in IT—things that will help make you, the IT professional, successful.
1) The Cloud is what you want it to be.
Don’t get me wrong, there is the NIST definition of Cloud, which is a good definition and a great start. But remember, what you actually do with the Cloud—how you solve business problems—is way more important than how it’s defined. Expand existing virtualization technologies, including storage and network virtualization, to put you and your company in the best position possible for the future. Today, that usually means to start building out a hybrid cloud strategy so that you are ready and able to move between public and private spaces with ease.
2) Learning how to break stuff will make you (and your technology solutions) better.
Before you implement a solution, and certainly before you put production users and data on it, try to break it. Fail it over. If it’s a server, pull the network cord or power cord and see what happens. You’d be surprised to learn that solutions that are designed with full redundancy and failover may not behave as expected in the real world. Taking something apart often times teaches you more about how something works than what you might find in a whitepaper. At the least, you will know what the weak point is that maybe someone else may not know, and you can share what you find with others.
3) Software-Defined Data Center is powerless without the hardware to match.
If you haven’t heard about SDDC, it’s what nearly every technology manufactures seems to talk about these days as the key to being agile, flexible, cloud-ready, and cutting edge. And I agree completely. I’m a hardware guy through and through, so I just have to say, now more than ever, the hardware is a key component of SDDC. When you hear the term “commodity,” you might think that it doesn’t matter what the underlying hardware is. This could be a big mistake. If you look under the covers of most storage system controllers being sold today, you’ll most likely find Intel processors. Knowing the differences among the Intel CPUs in those architectures can make the difference between half or double the performance between one vendor and another. Every release of an Intel processor could have a very large effect on the performance of the SAN. I’m not suggesting that we have to know the intricate details of Sandy-bridge vs. Ivy-bridge (Intel code-names), but we need to keep the marriage of software and hardware in mind when designing today’s data center and cloud solutions.
4) It is (still) about the latency, stupid.
A famous 1996 Stanford article discusses bandwidth and latency, and illustrates that solving bandwidth problems are easy, but latency is a physics problem (the speed of light limitation) that cannot be overcome easily or at all. More than ten years later, fiber has replaced modems in many locations, but we are still looking at WAN latency as a major factor in network performance that affects availability, DR, backups, and client connections. Today, latency on the storage is more important than ever. Most application performance today is not due to bandwidth, but instead, latency, and much of it is on the storage. IOPS are still worth discussing, but are not very meaningful without the associated IO size and latency figures to match.
5) Somebody is doing this better, faster, smarter than you.
It’s nearly impossible to be the smartest person in the room. But even if you are, there are at least two big downsides to being this smart. First, your competition is gaining on you faster than you are maintaining your skills. There’s only one place to go when you’re on the top—and that is down, and it will happen sooner or later. Second, intelligence is overrated. Getting things done means cooperating with others, being creative, being persistent, and above all else, putting in time.
6) Seek out the smart ones and join them. If you can’t join them, mimic them.
Michael Dell once said, “If you are the smartest pro in the room, find another room.” If they won’t let you in, be humble and be persistent. If they don’t like you, check your ego: nobody likes a know-it-all. If you can’t join them, find out what they do and start doing it. Mimicry is a form of flattery, but it can also lead to success. You might be able to learn how to do it better than they do it themselves. Microsoft learned from IBM, AOL learned from Netscape, Palm Pilot became popular after Apple made their Newton, Facebook is MySpace 2.0, and so on.
7) Plan for worst-case scenarios and peak utilization
One reason why Google is looking at automated cars is because they have done the math to reveal that the Interstate system is 90% free space on average. But does this statistic matter when most daily commutes are hitting bumper-to-bumper traffic at 8am or 5pm in most American cities? No, it doesn’t. A website that sells concert tickets and is up for four nines and just happens to be down the 52 minutes that tickets go on sale is little consolation for the lost revenue that business needs to operate. If you assume the worst, and build for the peaks, then your customers will less likely be looking at the hour glass when they need it the most.
8) Be passionate about solving problems; don’t be a Brand X person.
Some technology companies are great, and others are frustrating and complicated. The second we say “Brand x is poor technology, I like Brand Y,” we discredit ourselves. We may even lose respect, credibility, or lose customers. Every technology has its place, and maybe it’s a training issue, or maybe that technology really isn’t the best. But someone else may love it. There are often times many ways to implement technology, and your way is not always the best. The other way works perfectly fine too. Stay passionate on your favorite technologies, and use your passions to make people’s lives easier by solving business problems, even if that means using technologies that you’re not in love with.
9) Lose the words “always, never, can’t, but and no” from your vocabulary.
This is easy—just get rid of these words. Look, there are certain things that successful people say and do and sometimes it is not what you say, it’s what you don’t say. Lose these words and replace them with something else. Even if someone asks for the impossible, you can easily allude to the difficulty without saying no. There might be a large cost and/or risk associated with a big challenge, and you might assume they won’t pay the bill. I’ve seen a blank check handed over in response to someone saying “we would do this, but it would be too expensive.”
10) Have five back out plans.
You have to assume that your primary goal or solution will fail. Sometimes it’s political. This is a good thing, if in the end, an alternate solution works and delivers on time and on budget. There’s much more value in having multiple purposes for a product or solution. Suppose a Tier-2 storage system is targeted for an end-user computing platform, but the company wants to change direction. You might use this storage for another application. You might be able to allocate it to a test/dev lab, augment DR, or use it as a backup target. General purpose solutions that excel in one area or another is a lot different than nich products that are really only good at one thing. In today’s fast-changing IT world, flexibility and agility matter.
Photo credit: holeymoon via Flickr