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The Storage Administrator Role Is Evolving: Meet the Cloud Administrator

What do you think a CIO’s expectations of a storage administrator in the cloud paradigm include?

With year-after-year increases in public cloud adoption, traditional storage admin tasks such as installation and configuration of SAN devices, firmware upgrades, zoning, performance optimization and recovering and restoring data have become obsolete. These tasks simply do not require deep technical skills to execute in the cloud, since now all it takes is a couple of clicks on a GUI to carry them out. Also, public cloud offerings from AWS and Azure have made life so easy, infrastructure provisioning has been taken up by developers.

However, all this does not mean that the cloud is the end of the road for the storage administrator. Storage admins have multiple options at hand.

With huge amounts of data churning and everybody looking for that needle in the haystack, storage admins can move towards a new role as big data specialists. Automation is one of the key items on the to-do list of every CTO, so storage admins can also learn Python in order to become the driving force behind automating all the tasks that they have been doing manually for ages.

In this article, we will talk about the how your cloud strategy impacts the role of storage admin in the cloud and what are the different roles they can get into to adapt this change. We’ll also cover some key NetApp cloud solutions that are making it possible for storage admins to take on new roles in their organizations as cloud administrators.

Cloud Strategy and Its Impact on Storage Admins

What is a cloud administrator? Your organization’s cloud strategy defines the role of the cloud administrator, whether you are using cloud storage as your primary storage, or just testing it out as a disaster recovery or archive solution.

If you are using a cloud disaster recovery solution then you still need a traditional storage administrator to install, configure and upgrade all the storage devices hosted in your data center. However, those storage admins should also be equipped with a new tool set of data migration, data synchronization, data transfer and storage management solutions.

This is the need of the hour as more and more organizations are using hybrid cloud models, mandating the usage of advanced tools and techniques that weren’t included in the old storage admin job description.

The Storage Administrator Role Is Evolving: Meet the Cloud Administrator migration data storage configuration firmware upgrade big data cloud disaster recover solutionIf your organization is using cloud storage as its primary storage, the role of the storage admin will be no less technical, though it will be more aligned to business goals. Contract management with various cloud vendors, capacity planning, keeping an eye on billing, optimizing storage usage and taking the security precautions needed (as per the workload) are some of the key responsibilities for the storage admin in the cloud.

If we consider private clouds, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), all-flash arrays (AFA) and software-defined storage, the importance of the storage admin is being further reduced.

The usage of HCI is becoming more and more mainstream, with some enterprises even running their critical workloads such as Oracle on HCIs. As HCI requires zero intervention on the part of the storage admin, it is having a serious impact on the role. All-flash arrays provide a software layer to carry out various administrative tasks, further easing administrative duties and making the storage hardware agnostic to the end user.

It’s understandable that this information might scare some storage admins reading this, but the change has to happen.

You have to come out of the shell-based and siloed-based approach and begin to play a bigger role in your organization as a cloud storage administrator. This transformation will involve collaboration with various other teams, gaining new tools and a new job description, which includes:

1. Monitoring various cloud resources.
2. Approval/denial of extra cloud resources, keeping allocated budgets in mind.
3. Assigning price points to various infrastructure components.
4. Defining the billing cycle and transfer pricing costs.
5. Defining the change control cycle for the infrastructure components.
6. Leveraging cloud data management solutions, such as NetApp Cloud solutions, for better control of cloud storage and cloud usage costs.

NetApp offers a complete suite of solutions for the evolving storage admin, including Cloud Volumes ONTAP — a software layer which caters to multiple use cases for both Azure and AWS public clouds.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP acts as the single pane to manage hybrid storage environments, including resources on-premises or in the public cloud. With powerful storage efficiencies such as data deduplication, data compression and thin provisioning, storage admins get tools that help to keep cloud storage costs down. It also extends support of automated data tiering on AWS cloud, moving cold data to Amazon S3. This is an ideal scenario to auto archive infrequently-accessed data to a less expensive storage format and hence save costs.

For storage administrators who are familiar with NetApp storage systems, moving to NetApp cloud solutions cuts down the lengthy cloud administrator training period, as the interfaces are exactly the same as the systems they have used for years.

New Roles, Cloud Administrator Salary, and More

As we pointed out earlier, the role of the storage admin is not dead, but it is evolving into the cloud administrator.

Salary for cloud administrators can be another factor that will attract you towards this profile. In the US, people are earning 2.7 times more than median wage of the country to perform cloud computing administration. The average salary for a cloud administrator is around $78,462, while it starts at $55,000, it goes up to $110,000 for more experienced campaigners.

The Storage Administrator Role Is Evolving: Meet the Cloud Administrator migration data storage configuration firmware upgrade big data cloud disaster recover solutionBut that is only one path for the storage admin. Storage admins can also leverage their knowledge and skills and use them to fulfill new requirements that their CIOs have to meet. There are multiple roles to take on, such as data forensics, data security professional, big data analytics engineer, automation engineer and data scientist.

Have you noticed that most of the profiles have one keyword in common: ‘data’. Storage admin has always been closest to data and, hence, most of the roles pertaining to data analytics will be an apt profile. In this section we will discuss couple of roles/job profiles which can be a good option for transition.

  • Automation and integration engineer: Infrastructure-as-a-code has become the bedrock of automation. Activities such as scripted installation of various flavors of operating system, auto-selection of storage type on the basis of application criticality, auto-scaling of resources with threshold breach and auto remediation of incidents are very common and have paved the path for DevOps in infrastructure world.
    For storage admin, automation offers plethora of opportunities. They can now learn configuration management tools such as Puppet, Chef and Ansible, and languages such as Python, Go, JSON and PowerShell to automate various manual and repetitive jobs. This will not only save on costs for your organization but it will make them operate faster and avoid the errors that come with manual configuration.
    In addition, human resources can now concentrate on more meaningful and technical activities rather than trivial jobs. These skills will also be very useful in deployments of cloud data management and hybrid cloud management products such as NetApp ONTAP® Cloud on Azure and AWS and NetApp SnapMirror® for data synchronization.
  • Data analytics and architecture: Data is the new gold mine, businesses are looking for key insights from data, so they can expand their markets, acquire new customers, poach customers from competitors and launch new products targeting all-new segments of customers.
    The amount of data these opportunities are based on is huge: to use it requires learning specialized skills and tools such as big data, Apache Hadoop, Elastic Stack and Apache Spark to provide those key insights.
    Additionally, architecting and sizing the data repository and data purging cycle are other key decisions which require some amount of training. Attain these skills to start a new journey and to expand the horizon beyond responsibilities of the storage admin.


In the world of cloud computing, the only thing that is constant is change, and the same applies to the role of the storage admin. With more and more organizations opting for public clouds, running workloads in hybrid environments and setting up private clouds based on hyper-converged infrastructures, storage admins need to build on their old skills and pick up new set of cloud administrator skills and tools.

This new role in the cloud should be more aligned to business goals, and to do that, storage admins need to manage costs as much as they need to manage their storage systems. They’ll need to explore various cloud storage management, data migration, and data synchronization tools that optimize cloud usage and costs, such as NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP.

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Cloud Solution Architect