Best Practices: The science of storage management


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Consistency is the key to a disciplined storage operation.

A common theme in most IT shops these days is how stressed out the storage department is and how the number of available resources falls short of customer demand. In defense of our brethren, storage environments are getting more complex, data keeps growing at an uprecedented rate and everyone still has only two hands. You can continue to fight fires by adding more bodies to your staff, or you can try to douse the flames once and for all by rethinking the way storage is managed.

Micromanagement is a human quality. The more out of control the issue, the more attention it requires. The greater the number of issues you have to deal with, the more likely you'll be interrupted, which means that something will inevitably slip through the cracks. But all is not lost--you can still go from a reactive stance to proactive mode by making a few subtle changes to your environment.

Consistency. The key to easing storage management is consistency. Whatever you do, be consistent at it. I'm not suggesting that if you're doing something counterproductive you continue to do it, but be consistent in the sense that you treat storage management as a science, not an art. Consistency essentially allows you to create repeatable processes that, in effect, remove some of the intelligence from the process and provide ample opportunity for automation.

Standardization. Standardization

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goes hand-in-hand with consistency. Standardization complements consistency by making processes repeatable, minimizing stress involving one-offs, and ensuring that all initiatives and management issues are treated the same way. If there's one quality that can be the bane of a storage environment, it's one-off solutions. You may be able to manage your environment consistently without implementing standardization, but you're probably still dealing with one-off solutions, albeit in a somewhat consistent manner. That's hardly the stuff of an efficient operation.

Consistency is never complete without standardization; together, the two can ensure that an operation remains healthy. Just as you monitor your own health, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of your storage operation. If you see the number of one-off fixes increasing, it's time to take action.

Focus your efforts
There are several areas where you can strive to achieve consistency and standardization. How much you can achieve depends on the size of your operation and the resources you have available.

This was first published in June 2007

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