In Part 1 of this post I dismissed the TB:FTE metric based on the fact that it does not measure what you think it is measuring. That, coupled with an analysis of some reasons for asking the question “what’s the typical TB:FTE ratio?” pretty much retires the question. In short, there is only one reason to use TB:FTE as a yardstick for storage management (or any other infrastructure) staffing: to track your own workload over time. It’s a terrible justification for hiring and firing. I shared the first half of a quote from Jerry Thornton-
Basing your storage FTE requirements on the amount of terabytes under management is like Starbucks hiring Baristas based on the number of coffee beans in their store room.
That TB:FTE is a metric utterly incapable of measuring and comparing labor efficiency was just the appetizer. The fact remains this is a surprisingly devilishly difficult number to even calculate properly if we are going to compare like with like IT shops. Difficult though it is, the challenge hints at a far more interesting question to answer than “how does my staffing compare with my competitors?”
That interesting question is “What is the right TB:FTE ratio for my organization?”
Replace TB with virtual machines, network ports or floor tiles for all I care; it’s the same thing, and complicated. To prove it, I direct you to the Drake Equation:
This is a pretty cool story. The linked video on the page paints the picture nicely. The Vatican has 82,000 manuscripts of roughly 500 pages each with their high resolution scans requiring up to 150 megabytes of storage per page image. The librarian, Luciano Ammenti, explains that this will require 45 petabytes of storage. Let’s think about that massive problem for a minute…
82,000 manuscripts * 500 pages per manuscript * 150 MB per page = ~6.45 petabytes
So, not 45 petabytes but 6? Well that’s why Luciano is a librarian and not a data center guy. Wait, what? Luciano IS the Vatican Library Data Center Coordinator?
6.45PB * 2 for RAID-1 protection = 12.9PB
12.9PB * 3 for one primary and two remote replicas = 38.7PB
Ok, that’s closer but something is still not right with Luciano’s math. It’s still darned impressive, though.
I can’t wait to browse the virtual collection. As if one more reason for me to troll the Internet is a good thing. It’s not, but I’ll squeeze it in somehow.
I have been putting off this article for years, even though it is the most frequently asked question I receive. I’ve hit a breaking point, though, and plan on answering this question in two parts. This is part one. Usually the question comes to me in the form of:
How many terabytes per storage administrator is the industry standard for IT Operations?” or “what’s the right TB:FTE ratio?
I am asked this by my own colleagues in sales and delivery just as often as I am asked by my clients. I’m not favoring storage here, either, since the same question pops up for servers, virtual machines, networks and even data centers. Storage is just a handy proxy for all infrastructure. The context is that the enterprising, cost-cutting IT Director/VP/general busybody wants to compare his or her operations either to some indisputable benchmark or their best in class competitor. We spend an awful lot on storage, so why not divide the amount of data storage by the number of people we pay to manage it? It’s simple, easy to compare two shops against one another and the analysts publish survey data on this metric every year.
It’s also a completely bogus metric. Here’s Jerry Thornton, one of the best storage guys on the planet:
Basing your storage FTE requirements on the amount of terabytes under management is like Starbucks hiring Baristas based on the number of coffee beans in their store room. Continue reading →
Problem solving is what I do for a living. I pride myself on taking an unconventional approach whenever possible; those are always the most satisfying solutions and frequently the most effective in terms of time, cost and results.
These students, however, have me beat hands down, working the curve against itself:
I will admit trying to pull off this stunt in high school to little effect, since getting a classroom of high school students to agree to any course of action makes herding cats look trivial. I never liked “grading on a curve” because I am competitive with the material, not my fellow students or colleagues. Outstanding performance, folks.
Please; everybody read this, now. And once again genuflect to the true alpha nerd of xkcd.
Ten years ago I wrote an article specifically for my father, explaining how much data I managed at a global entertainment company (4 petabytes, by the way). At the time I only had the ubiquitous compact disc as a reference for him. In the days before Randall Munroe and his What-If? and xkcd I had to paint the image of 6 million CDs all by myself. Unlike Randall, I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life. This veritable lake of CDs, I told my father, was even stranger: I could find any piece of information in that lake I desired in under 50 thousandths of a second.
He looked up long enough from his newspaper to hang up the corded phone on the wall and say “I’ve never sent an e-mail; is this about e-mail?” Sigh. Nevermind.
Ok, so my nerd interests are not universally shared in the family but I know they are in the blogosphere; enjoy.
While this blog is maintained by employees of EMC Corporation it is not a corporate blog. EMC does not review, edit or authorize the content of this blog. The personal opinions of the authors are presented here.