In the least, I think companies running SQL Server would do well to get a storage consultant to come in at critical times - like when you're about to plan new storage infrastructure - or are starting to see problems. Then maybe it's possible a network admin can be trained to do the day-to-day stuff and stay in the safety zone. But that's a big maybe.
Let's take buying new SANs. The vendor makes a presentation and it sounds plausible. I think it's an expert SAN admin who is needed to see through the hype.
I listened in on Denny Cherry's SAN Storage for SQL Server presentation at PASS Conference 2009 - just recently - and before that, was mostly in the dark about the world of Storage Administrators. Denny is in charge of planet earth's larges SQL Server implementation. So he knows what he's talking about. He's a good resource.
After hearing him, my company went out to buy new SANs. A network admin heard a presentation and bought some devices without doing much research. I offered some advice based on what I had learned, but the transaction was done. The two DELL devices came with 16 spindles each.
The devices aren't really designed for someone to map out which spindles to place specific LUNS on - oddly enough. The DELL spin was that "you don't have to worry about the physical implementation. You focus on the logical implementation."
According to Denny, that's clearly the wrong approach for getting best long-term performance. No matter the magic in the box, a spindle head can't read and write at the same time - and can't break the laws of physics.
Denny specifically recommends dedicated spindles to LUNS - and set up separate LUNS for TempDB, log files, data files and a LUN for Windows OS, SQL Binaries and the Windows page file.
Things get complicated quickly. There's recommendations for which LUNS to put on faster, fewer spindles vs the slower spindles. There's the 64-bit offset issue for server operating systems below Windows Server 2008. There are other bottlenecks in the pipeline to consider. My grasp of it soon drops off - and I keep Denny's business card in my rolodex.
Like us, I wager that many shops will have to make compromises as their storage devices in their range of budget will have a limited set of spindles. A storage expert is in a far better position to make the right tradeoffs.
Anyhow, we get this classic scenario where the expertise is expensive and little understood. Business wants to be economical - but at the same time hold imperfect information - and maybe even suffer from wanting something for nothing. So they'd love to hand the area over to an existing person - the network admin. Risky.
Bill Nicolich: www.SQLFave.com
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