Storage consolidation: Simplifying infrastructure will pay dividends for your apps

And let me tell you why in three words: Developers! Developers! Developers!


Register Debate Welcome to The Register Debate in which we pitch our writers against each other on contentious topics in IT and enterprise tech, and you – the reader – decide the winning side. The format is simple: a motion is proposed, for and against arguments are published today, then another round of arguments on Wednesday, and a concluding piece on Friday summarizing the brouhaha and the best reader comments.

During the week you can cast your vote using the embedded poll, choosing whether you're in favor or against the motion. The final score will be announced on Friday, revealing whether the for or against argument was most popular. It's up to our writers to convince you to vote for their side.

For this debate, the motion is: Consolidating databases has significant storage benefits, therefore everyone should be doing it.

Earlier, we've heard from Chris Mellor and Dave Cartwright arguing against and for the motion, respectively. And now, arguing FOR the motion, is SIMON SHARWOOD...

When I need a haircut, the first thing I do is consult my barber's app. It shows me a real-time view of his queue, which is very useful because the alternative is showing up and hoping nobody else decided to get a trim. The app lets me choose the cut I want in advance and book a place in the queue without my barber having to stop snipping and answer a phone. I pay with a smartphone app offered by a bank that will never have a physical branch but which can detect my haircuts and offers to help me budget for them.

I mention my barber and my bank because while storage and databases both have considerable charms, they are not ends unto themselves: applications are the reason IT teams get out of bed in the morning. And database consolidation and associated storage simplification can make a difference to an application development effort.

Applications matter because they have become both an organisation’s shopfront and its product. I now visit my barber’s app before I visit his shop and the booking experience gives me an insight into his product. The actual haircut is now part of an extended experience.

The digital experience delivered by applications can be the difference between happy customers who act as advocates for your organisation and an angry Twitter rant about your inadequacies.

I’ll stick with that barber and that bank as long as they continue to offer pleasing experiences, which will require developers to constantly refine the relevant apps.

That pressure on developers led to the emergence of DevOps, which recognizes one of the things that slows developers down is waiting for an IT operations teams – the fine and under-appreciated folks who run storage and databases and understand their charms – to deliver a database or storage or whatever else a developer needs.

In an ideal DevOps world, the Ops team becomes invisible. Developers just get what they need so they can build the software an organisation requires.

In this world where software rules and businesses bend over backwards for developers, simplicity is valuable.

Which is why database consolidation is a fine thing. Today, discrete databases often run in silos of technology. Those silos make work for developers and increase complexity by scattering data that describes a single customer across different tools and physical infrastructure.

That in turn makes life harder for developers who have to understand, and then code for, different technologies, the integration layers that bind them, and hope that Ops keeps all of the pieces humming. Even if Ops does brilliantly, the resulting app is more complex and relies on different databases, storage appliances, and the links between them.

And that’s not easy for Ops teams because every technology eventually becomes legacy tech. That we’ve had to invent something like Fibre Channel over Ethernet bespeaks the contortions organisations perform to keep silos relevant.

Smart organisations don’t let it get to the stage where they are caught in a web of legacy tech. That would leave them hostage to a shrinking pool of tech and services vendors who can ratchet prices because there’s nobody left to do the work or patch a problem.

Instead, they continuously consolidate so that their costs are low and their infrastructure doesn’t include kinks that have the potential to slow developers.

Silos and technical debt can often seem insurmountable obstacles.

But the alternative to addressing them is to slow down developers or leave them unable to create the kind of digital experiences that delight customers and keep them off Twitter.

So the choice is simple: you can learn to live with multiple databases and the infrastructure complications they create. Or you can always have an eye on consolidation as an enabler of the reinvention that has become essential. Even when someone wants something as simple as a haircut. ®

Cast your vote below. You can track the progress of the debate right here.

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