Is DevOps changing storage from simple to API?

DevOps is a new paradigm and is having a significant impact on the enterprise today, but will it replace simple GUI?


"Storage should be easy. It should be that anyone can manage it, it's something you put in the closet and forget about."

This was the mantra of storage vendors over the last 10-15 years. We saw vendors like EqualLogic make a dent and then get acquired after selling on simplicity. Then, EMC announced the VNXe and invited a third-grader to come onstage and configure it. 

This worked well when selling into the small to medium business space, and many companies jumped on the bandwagon, but is it the future? As we see cross-cloud integration like VMware announced at VMworld, and the rise of containers into the enterprise, is simplicity really the key selling point?

I would argue it is not. The new paradigm is another one of the buzzwords of the past few years: DevOps.

If you are like most people in the market, you are still trying to figure out exactly what DevOps means. Do you need to have programmers on staff even though you sell insurance or auto parts? You don't. In fact, you just need staffers that understand the underlying concepts.

The most general definition I have found was on Wikipedia: "A movement or practice that emphasizes the collaboration and communication of both software developers and other information-technology (IT) professionals while automating the process of software delivery and infrastructure changes."

For this purpose, think about the integration you need as you move from an isolated enterprise to one that works with SaaS tools and newly developed applications. There is a glue that holds all these components together and allows us to achieve tight integration -- that is the API. 

"API" can be a scary term for many SysAdmins, since they are used to a GUI that lets them manage everything (back to the third-grader deploying storage). However, it does not need to be scary anymore, since more companies are making it easier than ever to work with an API. 

The Open API Initiative (OAI) has influenced vendors to keep APIs more consistent and simpler for everyone. Combining the REST APIs with something like Swagger UI tool gives the general admin a simple representation of what an API can do. Swagger even provides a public-facing demo, "Swagger Petstore," so that any administrator can understand how easy an API can be to use. 

Most of the newer storage companies, and specifically those touting "software-defined," utilize something like the Swagger UI as a web interface to clearly detail exactly what you need to put in a script to make the storage do what you want.

Take the Petstore example: When you use the "Try It Out" under the store inventory, it produces a new command to run

curl -X GET --header 'Accept: application/json' ''

No longer is a developer needed; you simply go to a website and cut and paste into the script. This impact can be felt throughout the data center. 

This shift to a simplistic API, and even more importantly a simplistic and powerful interface to those APIs, can be used by enterprises to change the way the SysAdmins of today work. This will not eliminate the need for vendors to make simple, easy-to-navigate graphical interfaces, but it will give the freedom and flexibility that is needed as enterprises move more and more into the software-defined data center.

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