Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Outsourcing Tape Backup Hijinks

I work in IT... Specifically, I'm the development team lead for a data warehousing group. If you're not familiar with data warehousing, we're the geeks that gather up all the information that we can for a company about itself, its customers, its supply chain, its inventory, etc and put it all in one place to give business analysts and executive big wigs an understanding of how the business is doing and what they might do to make it better (read "more profitable"). What can I say, I enjoy the challenge of trying to unify all the disparate parts of a company into a single model. If you haven't worked for a fortune 500 company, you may have a good idea for just how complicated the all the data behind a big business can be. It's a real challenge.

Anyway, yes, I've sold out to "the man" and have a job that only very loosely works toward making the world a better place... But that isn't the point of this post.

So, we're looking to potentially work with a new database vendor for our data warehouse. Part of that evaluation and selection process is to perform a proof of concept in which we give a copy of our data to both of the vendors we're evaluating, they load that data on a test system configured like the one we might buy, and we execute functional and performance tests against their system. Since our current database is archaic in technology terms (5 year), both vendors had better perform better than our current solution. The only question is which vendor has the best combination of functionality, performance, ease of use, and price. (Just for reference, we're talking about 2.5 terabytes of data and database systems that cost multiple millions of dollars.)

One of the keys to this proof of concept is to create a copy of our existing data and send that off to the vendors. (Never fear, customer privacy is ensured by scrambling personal information and various legal agreements.)

As so many do today, our company outsourcing much of its IT administration to a third-party. (Not naming any names, but they had some issues with upgrading an airlines desktop PC a little while back.) Our database administrators, system administrators, and backup administrators are all "leveraged resources" from that third-party. A "leveraged resource" means that the person isn't solely dedicated to our systems. They might work on the systems for other clients as well. The theory behind outsourcing (as is the theory behind how civilizations and economies are built) is specialization. Someone else learns how to do something really well so that you can skip learning that and focus on your own core skills. Then they can trade services for goods or money. The outsourcing firm specializing in database/system/backup administration, and we hire them so that we reap the benefits of a specialist without putting time/effort into specializing ourselves.

Well, the so called backup specialists that I've been working today don't know how to load a backup tape and archive data to it. I'm no specialist here, but I ended up having to spend 2 hours tonight monkeying around with various tape commands before figuring out the one simple command out specialists forgot to execute. Many thanks to our friend Google.

Specialization may be the foundation of modern civilization and economy, but when it comes to IS, I think I'll stick to my strategy of being a generalist.

  • The specialist strives to learn more and more about less and less, until he knows everything about absolutely nothing.
  • The generalist continues to learn less and less about more and more, until he knows absolutely nothing about everything.

1 comment:

Sarahlynn said...

Dude, you should sleep more (hah hah). Your typos here are *hilarious*! They make the post. (Thereabouts/terabytes, googol/Google, monsoons/???) I love you.