Creating storage tiers for backup services


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Operating-level agreement
What the lines of business receive from their IT service providers is best described as an operating-level agreement (OLA). The OLA specifies the services to be provided by an infrastructure group as an "offering" to its customers. Customers use the OLA to better understand what products are offered by each infrastructure group and can then choose which services they need to support their apps while knowing the cost of the services.

So how does an OLA help a storage manager and not just add another administrative burden? For starters, the OLA lets everyone know what to expect from everyone else. Becchetti, for example, had an application that generated a large number of media files, mostly .wav files. The application has a feature that trashed these files based on various space-saving parameters, but the application's owner was unaware that, based on the backup settings in place at the time, only 30 days of backed up data was available--no archived copies. When the business required .wav files older than 30 days, there was no way to recover them. With an OLA in place, there are no surprises about how the data is--or isn't--protected.

Asked what he would have done differently based on what he knows today, Becchetti says, "I wish we would have written the SLA documents before we implemented the tiered concept and not after. Also, but less importantly, we should have identified the ramifications of handling

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the various one-off exception requests to each tier we received to accommodate the customer goodwill. These [exceptions] can often unravel the purpose of a service-level [agreement]."

Backup service tiers
Click here for a comprehensive list of backup service tiers (PDF).

Although every organization has its unique tiering definitions, they tend to follow broad outlines. The "Backup service tiers" chart (PDF) shows some of the components and attributes commonly found in a multitiered storage architecture. Noticeably missing is the degree and extent to which backup functionality is integrated into the different tiers of other services, such as networking, security and database admin.

Storage OLA tiers capture those services that can be rendered at various levels and then priced accordingly. Storage managers usually align their online disk- serving capacity by identifying storage services unique to each array type; for example, a tier-one service might be array-based replication.

This was first published in May 2006

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