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Creating effective data storage policies

Ezine

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Time to operate
Operational policies govern the process of managing the infrastructure on an ongoing basis. Once tactical policies have been developed to implement the intent of the strategic policies, operational policies dictate how to keep the environment running.

One reason to call these out separately is that many organizations only have operational policies. Those are usually classic knee-jerk laws developed in response to specific operational failings. For instance, we know of a CIO who decreed that all changes to the environment (even minor ones) must be approved by a change control committee. This froze all environmental changes and eventually forced administrators "underground," performing secret configurations. This led to another failure like the one that precipitated the policy in the first place.

Operational policies don't support specific strategic policies like tactical ones do. Rather, they tend to support the implementation of the tactical policies--the "spirit of the law." Good operational policies tend to have exceptions to keep them within the realm of reality. Some normal operational policies include the following:

  • Design. Fabrics will provide dual paths to storage targets with automated failover, requiring dual host bus adapters (HBAs). Each path to storage will reside in a discrete zone consisting of a single HBA port and a single storage array port.

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  • Provisioning. Storage provisioning requests must be made on the requisitions form and will be acknowledged within one business day. Conforming requests will be fulfilled within five business days.
  • Monitoring. Operators will respond to pages immediately, and will manually review operational status every five minutes.
  • Escalation. All faults will be escalated according to the escalation standard operating procedure (SOP). The development of operational policies often leads to a need for SOPs (for more on SOPs, see "Time to get organized," in the February 2004 issue of Storage). Remember, procedures are the steps taken to perform a task. SOPs can be a step-by-step expression of operational policies, and are often the only written record.
Drafting a posse of policies
The highest ranking people of an organization must set the strategic policies. They decide on issues such as whether an internal utility-provider model will be used and whether costs will be charged back to users. And they're also the ones who lay down the law on standardization. These policies should be documented and distributed for all to see. This way, no one can claim ignorance of the law.

Next, the managers of the storage infrastructure can decide on how to implement these strategic edicts. They decide on the type of architecture to deliver a tiered utility or how to model costs for billing. While these policies should be documented, they don't need to be as widely distributed as their strategic counterparts.

Finally, individual area managers can determine how to operate the environment. They can write SOPs for monitoring and escalation, and will be defining operational policies in the process. If a complete, documented set of strategic and tactical policies is in place, there's little worry that their decisions won't align with the overall framework. Each manager can be deputized and empowered to set policies in their own areas.

This was first published in March 2004

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