Controlling storage capacity


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Getting there
Now that you know where you want to go, how can you get there? These five key steps are a must:

Establish IT governance. IT departments need standard operating procedures to deliver consistent, repeatable, measurable results. A good place to start is with IT governance models such as the IT infrastructure library (ITIL), IT services management (ITSM) and the control objectives for information and related technology (CobiT). These models provide best practices for an array of IT activities such as configuration management, availability management, service management and security. Operational models shouldn't be approached lightly, as implementing them can be projects unto themselves. Nevertheless, a good operational foundation is imperative to cope with ever-growing storage needs. At the very least, CIOs should look to well-established archetypes such as ITIL, ITSM and CobiT for ideas--especially to help with problem areas.

Set up policies and procedures based upon data classification and SLAs. Now is the time to set up specific operational models. Policies and procedures need to be detailed, specific and a match for each data classification. Set up specific policies and procedures for each and every operational process. For example, IT's response to error messages should be different, based upon whether they come from a storage system housing mission-critical data, critical operational data or non-critical

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operational data. Mission-critical systems need immediate attention and escalation while the others may best be served by standard escalation procedures by level one support.

Dedicate the right staff to the right projects. Make sure your most skilled personnel are responsible for supporting mission-critical data. Don't forget to give junior staff members the chance for mentoring and career growth. As storage grows and a new critical system comes online, this training experience will pay dividends when you have fully-trained personnel to slot into new roles.

Select the important data to monitor. This is where the lack of mature storage management tools forces you to pay careful attention. All of the storage equipment provides oodles of management data, but capturing and analyzing that data can be a full-time job involving manual processes, spreadsheets and automated scripts. Manage this process by sorting through the mountains of data and defining the two or three metrics you need across the entire storage infrastructure. For example, you may want to capture utilization, performance and error logs from every device to give you a high-level picture of end-to-end performance and behavior. You'll still have to dig into each device, but at least you'll have a pretty good cursory understanding of the entire storage system. Review this data often because it can help you identify trouble spots and plan for future needs.

Define the right metrics and reports. IT managers must monitor business and technical statistics to determine if they are meeting business commitments. They also must check under the hood to monitor the storage and IT infrastructure. To do this accurately, companies should choose the right metrics and then monitor and report on them frequently.

The processes defined in this column will help IT managers cope with storage growth, while storage management vendors evolve and improve their current elementary tools. Eventually, storage management software will actually be ready for prime time. You'll get more from those tools, though, if you've done the hard work of understanding what processes and procedures you need.

This was first published in April 2003

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