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Change that stands the test of time: Best Practices

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Planning for change
It's easy to get caught up in the technology evaluation process, but before venturing too far down the path of technology selection, establishing requirements and objectives is paramount. An awareness of technology options is healthy, but it's also important to resist the temptation to select the technology first and then rationalize an architecture around it.

At a minimum, your checklist should include the following:

Scalability: By scalability, I'm not referring solely to storage capacity. It's important to plan for growth, but other attributes of system scalability are also critical. Performance scalability, in terms of the ability to increase I/O in a predictable and consistent manner, is an important design factor. Likewise, the ability of advanced features, such as mirroring, replication and load balancing, to perform optimally even with maximum capacities and mixed workloads is often overlooked when the emphasis is primarily on the number of terabytes or petabytes.

Resiliency: System availability and recoverability requirements continue to become more stringent, but they're only as reliable as the weakest link in the overall supply chain. Appropriately matching resiliency components of storage with application capabilities and other infrastructure components, as well

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as establishing (on an organization-wide basis) standard availability and recoverability policies, are prerequisites of an effective design.

Serviceability and support: While not as sexy as new technology bells and whistles, service and support can be a make-or-break feature. Adopting advanced technology is great until something goes wrong and help is required. What are the organizational expectations in this area? Factors to consider include response time, geographical coverage and level of vendor involvement. While larger, more established vendors may have the edge in this regard, some users report that smaller, up-and-coming vendors offer advantages such as more personalized attention and faster problem escalation.

Manageability: In an era of hypergrowth, the ease with which an environment can be configured, monitored and otherwise administered becomes increasingly important. An understanding of key processes, such as provisioning and change management, factor significantly into design and product selection. Other considerations include organizational factors like data center distribution and growing needs for remote management.

This was first published in July 2008

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