Q

Major storage disciplines and who gets to execute them

Q1. What are the major storage disciplines that need to be delivered by the storage administration function?

Q2. How realistic is it to expect a single organizational unit to execute these disciplines across various platforms?
A1. There are many disciplines that the storage management team within an IT organization provides regardless of the size of the enterprise, including:

1. Provisioning and reallocating with a goal to consolidate

2. Backup and recovery

3. Compliance architecting and administration

4. Replication and availability planning (clustering)

5. Budget planning

6. Management (break-fix, error prevention)

7. Vendor management

8. Support of the end-users

9. Training and education

10. X-functional integration: Internally within the IT organization (host and application team, network team, etc.) as well as internally within the company with accounting, etc, and externally with the end customer.

And, many more...

A2. Depends on what you mean by "realistic." All of the above functional areas touch each other and one may not even realize that these efforts are underway each and every day from a tactical and strategic level.

Usually, IT shops within enterprises are structured around functions based on the platform type and expertise involved but at the end of the day, the hierarchical management structure leads to a few individuals who actually are accountable for the overall storage environment. These individuals should be able to document the various processes in place for each area and then look to improve them based on a prioritization and budget/resources.

With this said, many economies of scale can be met through taking on singular projects in the consolidation space that enable an enterprise to move storage to a singular infrastructure that enables better management and in the end can allow the enterprise to focus on other areas over time. I have seen this happen when companies move their backup and archiving systems to disk-based backup systems. In one move, an enterprise was able to consolidate its tape management and network operations down to a few processes and from four to two vendors for software and hardware thus, limiting the management needed. At the same time they went from not being able to make their 24-hour window for restores to being able to restore within one hour and they still met all of their federal compliance guidelines by taking a weekly archive to tape. The disk-based snapshots became its backups and the whole process was managed by the backup admins who had before been responsible for flipping tapes and restarting failed backup jobs.

The only way to succeed in process reengineering is to document the current process and all of the parties involved and then look at small efforts that yield big results. They may not be apparent but the storage admins are responsible for much more than many IT management teams really understand but this is changing.

Let me know your thoughts and if I can assist further.

Brett P. Cooper

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This was first published in February 2004

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