Controlling storage capacity


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According to the Meta Group, Stamford, CT, storage capacity will grow at a compound annual rate of 92% through 2005. That's quite a lot of new spinning disk year after year. CIOs will have to find or buy excess capacity to accommodate this new requirement.

The good news is that disk drive prices continue to spiral downward to the tune of 40% to 50% per year. But the real cost isn't hardware--it's storage operations. Peripheral Research, Santa Barbara, CA, claims that $1 of storage hardware carries a cost of $7 for operations. With budgets flat and headcounts frozen, how can IT departments meet this operational challenge?

The obvious answer is through process automation. Throw some software from Computer Associates (CA), EMC, Tivoli, or Veritas at the problem, configure these tools to meet your storage policies and you're done, right? Wrong.

Today's storage management software is incredibly immature, proprietary and limited and likely to remain so for another two to three years. Rudimentary storage management standards are just starting to be ratified and will take time to roll out into products. In the meantime, storage management vendors can swap APIs or write system calls to other vendors' command line interfaces, but this is a painfully slow process that won't come close to solving real enterprise storage problems.

Focus on process
IT managers take heart. The lack of credible storage management software options

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is actually a blessing in disguise. The dearth of software tools provides an opportunity to address storage growth with business-driven processes and procedures that deliver ROI to the business and IT, while actually solving the problem.

The roadmap for processes and procedures should focus on these three points:

  1. Accommodating business goals
  2. Classifying data
  3. Setting the right SLAs

With these points in mind, IT managers will know where they are and where they must to go. Let's examine each in detail.

IT executives must meet with business managers, CEOs and CFOs to fully understand upcoming business projects and initiatives. What's coming up to drive new revenue streams? Are there any regulatory compliance issues to meet? How will the company touch its customers? Will there be any business process automation? The answer to these questions should help CIOs appreciate the scope of future requirements so they can start to plan for new storage capacity, infrastructure and operations. Once IT managers comprehend the business needs, they should negotiate their staffing and budgetary requirements accordingly.

With storage capacity nearly doubling each year, no company can continue to manage all data the same. To solve this quagmire, the Enterprise Storage Group recommends that enterprise companies classify all enterprise data. One suggestion is to group data into three buckets: critical business data, critical operational data and non-critical operational data. Examples of critical business data are customer databases, transaction systems or product inventory. Critical operational data may be e-mail or user files. Non-critical operational data may be reference data and archives. Once you've established a data classification scheme, you can choose a matching infrastructure, operational policy and staffing model.

Based upon these classifications, choose service levels that meet the business needs for each group. Between data classification and SLA categories, you should be able to better scale the IT department while still delivering proper services.

This was first published in April 2003

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