DBAs often complain about SAN Administrators. “You can’t trust them.” I’ve seen established DBAs write publicly that they resort to lying about how SQL Server works to get what they want from a SAN Administrator.
That’s pretty toxic. Other DBAs start to think it’s normal to have a terrible relationship with your SAN Administrator.
But it’s not normal. And if there’s a terrible relationship between DBAs and the SAN team, that’s the DBA team’s fault, too.
The first SAN team I ever worked with
I’m pre-disposed to like SAN Administrators because I’ve worked with great people. When I started out with SQL Server at a small dot com, we had a two person SAN team and many terabytes of data across both SQL and NOSQL solutions. Our software team and our data grew insanely quickly.
The SAN team had more fun than almost anyone in the building. They had to work super hard. They got paged a lot. They were sometimes grumpy on the phone at 3 am, just like the DBAs. But they were funny and smart and the kind of people who could magically turn a crappy situation into a good time.
They didn’t always want to make everything RAID 10, and they didn’t always automatically believe the problem was the SAN when I said, “the SQL Server’s slow.” But they worked with me every time when I had a problem, and we always found a solution.
Over time, I learned ways to show them real metrics when I really needed more storage speed rather than just saying, “it’s slow.”
Most SAN Administrators I Work With Today
I still work with SAN Administrators frequently. They’re usually helpful – in fact, they’re often happy that someone would like to hear how the SAN is configured and why it’s set up that way.
Most SAN Admins I meet work alone or in small groups. They’re super busy, and sometimes mistakes get made (just like DBAs). But also like DBAs, I’ve found them to be pretty happy when there’s a real reason that justifies investing in better hardware. They’re able to admit when something’s not right, fix it, and move on.
Remember, The SAN Admin had just as much training as you did
That’s right, they probably didn’t get any training either. The storage world changes fast, and they have to try to keep up.
Yes, they get taken out to nice dinners by the SAN vendor, and you don’t. But think about how your job looks to the people over at the helpdesk. Ever gotten a bottle of scotch from the developers as a reward for saving the day? Ever had flextime and rolled into the office late? It’s not just the SAN admins who have some perks.
Your SAN Admin isn’t out to get you. They just have a lot of customers.
Your mission as a DBA is to make your databases perform as well as the business needs them, and protect the RPO and RTO of your customers. The SAN Administrator’s goal is to provide enough storage capacity and performance as the business needs. They’ve got a lot of customers– the performance of every one of your databases isn’t at the top of their list. When the database is slow, it’s hard for them to know that the issue is the storage.
I’m not saying that there aren’t bad SAN Admins out there. There certainly are.
But don’t be the person who misrepresents things and thinks someone’s out to get them. Aspire to be more like my old SAN team: the kind of person who can turn a crappy situation into a good time. That’s usually a lot more effective.
Brent says: wait a minute – I never got a bottle of Scotch from my developers. I mean, I got hit over the head with a bottle once, but there wasn’t any alcohol left in it.