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Creating storage tiers for backup services

Ezine

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To charge or not
Many OLA programs assume that costs can be efficiently identified and then allocated to user communities based on their consumption of IT services. Although implementing a tiered approach isn't dependent on having chargeback, a pay-for-services model keeps users focused on what's possible. Without this mechanism, business users gravitate to the tier with the most features--provided its cost isn't applied to their budgets. High-end backup costs can be steep. Take, for instance, backup tiers with zero RTO values and other advanced backup features such as disk-to-disk backup or long-term archiving, which can cost as much as $50/GB; this could mean that the cost of handling 10TB at a tier-one backup service level could exceed $500,000.

Some of the logic inherent in these calculations is a bit arbitrary because there are certain costs in the installed backup topology, media servers and base licenses that need to be amortized and attributed to all the tiers. How these costs are accorded to each tier can make all the difference in determining how much application owners will pay to receive their backup services.

Service tiers vs. service catalogs
David Kaercher, vice president of core services at Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America in Minneapolis, offers his business units a "catalog" of storage services with their associated costs. This type of catalog focuses more on describing storage capability

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in generic terms that can be understood by non-technologists. It contains none of the guarantee language usually found in an OLA or SLA.

Many storage managers have a difficult time envisioning how to separate, define and stratify backup functionality into service tiers. Backup service levels can become remarkably complex. There are many options a customer can take, even within a given service level. The temptation for the service manager is to simplify the choices to ease the burden of implementation, maintenance and reporting. Conversely, business units will want to expand their options within a tier. Of course, there's a delicate balance between cost, complexity and manageability. The key for storage managers is to help their users make good decisions by understanding the tradeoffs among the different service options.

Storage managers should consider the following before laying out their first tiered-backup service offering:

  • Choose the right media. The media choice establishes the boundaries for backup and recovery times, and determines the ability to move data between business apps for other data protection purposes. The appropriate media type for backup is determined by the attributes of each data class, speed of reading data, physical storage parameters and document storage restrictions that may dictate a media that will maintain bit-level integrity for a given number of years, prevent rewrites or allow reliable deletion.


  • Define the data protection infrastructure. Three interrelated factors--number, frequency and location of the copies--define the data protection infrastructure.


  • Support the company's mission. Companies are increasingly realizing their core competencies through IT strategy, such as faster business cycles, sophisticated risk management schemes and more efficient information exchange. OLAs must support this corporate direction by accommodating changing workloads and investment priorities.

This was first published in May 2006

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