Gawthorpe talks about the challenges of managing complex storage and backup environments, and why it's a good idea to get the mobile numbers of vendor CEOs at trade shows.
If you think you or someone you know would be a good candidate for our Storage Pro-File, please submit their contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.Q. How did you get into backup and data storage?
A. I first worked at EDS as an apprentice in about 1996, and during that time I was running set backups for customers. It was a bit of a chore to be honest and something that everyone tried to avoid. Then I moved to Rabo Bank and the Legato [now EMC NetWorker] backup system wasn't working one day, and as the new boy I got the job of fixing it. From there ensued a career in backup and storage. When I arrived at CMC Markets, they'd just bought a BakBone NetVault:Backup server and it hadn't been configured properly and everyone was standing around twiddling their thumbs. Again, I was the new boy and got the job of sorting it out and totally redesigned the system for our business.
A. It's a mixed bag. Some people have no idea what we do or the benefit of it. Or they just think it's really simple -- a backup server and some tapes -- when in fact it's a complex arrangement of about half a dozen technologies. The really good thing is that senior management understands what we're about and we don't have too much trouble convincing them to invest, beyond due diligence of course.
Q. What's the biggest satisfaction in your job?
A. Being able to say "No problem, we'll do that" when someone needs something restored.
Q. What's the biggest challenge you face in your role?
A. The biggest challenge is getting it right. We use a number of technologies – Nexsan SANs, Data Domain data deduplication hardware, the Linux backup server, smart clients handling I/O traffic and tape libraries -- and we're constantly having to make sure they work together. [We're] always reviewing the setup to ensure we're getting the optimum performance for the business' needs. Most problems can be solved by throwing more kit at them, but in these times you have to be more creative in your approach.
Q. What's the biggest frustration you face working in backup and data storage?
A. One of the funniest is when people come to you to restore files, and they'll ask what we've done with a file when you know full well they've deleted it themselves.
We use at least half a dozen leading-edge technologies that need to work together, and one of the biggest frustrations has been getting the vendors to talk to each other. When something doesn't work they try to pass the buck onto the other vendor, but what's really needed is for them to get their heads together. Our suppliers have gotten a lot better, and often now all I need to do is phone one account manager and he'll get in touch with his opposite number and we'll get the issue sorted in half a day.
What I did was get the mobile numbers of several associate CEOs at trade events and, if push has come to shove, I've given them a ring, which seems to get things moving.
But vendors should realise it's better to work as a team; they can all get their bit of business and by working together they'll get more -- none of them can get all of it.
Q. Which direction do you expect your career to move in?
A. I'm already moving to a more strategic management role and only spend about 10% of my time doing hands-on storage. I've trained up my teams and many of them are better than me now, and I get full reports every morning on my BlackBerry. It's nice to be in a position to see the big picture and think strategically.