Data storage consolidation guidelines


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Storage services groups are all about delivering business value while reducing IT costs. In support of these goals, many companies begin a storage services effort by consolidating distributed direct-attached storage (DAS) devices into a shared storage area network (SAN). And although the results can certainly be rewarding, not everyone should immediately start storage consolidation planning and budget allocation. How can you tell if a storage consolidation project is right for your enterprise? You're a prime candidate if your storage environment has one or more of the following conditions:

Storage allocation problems impact business initiatives. Remember, we're talking about storage services. If the IT team struggles to allocate disk resources and move data for application development and testing, it's not meeting the business requirements. Storage consolidation and the right processes can certainly help alleviate this problem.

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Seven steps to SANs
1. Baseline your current environment.
2. Get a detailed inventory of your servers and disks.
3. Classify your data.
4. Enlist the help of other IT functional groups.
5. Dedicate a support team.
6. Select your hardware vendors.
7. Choose a service partner.

Many DAS boxes are colocated with servers in a common data center. This is a perfect environment for storage consolidation. If servers and their associated DAS systems are distributed, you're in for a storage and server consolidation project, which is much more complex.

Disk utilization varies or storage growth rates soar. Does your company have several DAS boxes that need constant upgrades, while others run at 20% to 30% utilization for months on end? This is a classic problem where server consolidation can help balance utilization rates while decreasing capital costs. Alternatively, an environment which experiences constant dynamic growth will benefit from a high-bandwidth, high-capacity consolidated storage architecture.

Storage administration is a bottleneck. Rule No. 1 in operations is to find the bottleneck and fix the bottleneck. If administering numerous DAS boxes puts the IT staff is in a state of constant fire fighting, you've found a bottleneck. Storage consolidation can address this issue. According to Gartner, a storage admin can manage up to 500% more capacity in a consolidated storage infrastructure.

Storage consolidation projects can help overcome any of the shortcomings described earlier, but these projects are complex undertakings by themselves. Most IT shops are running lean these days, so it's not likely you have adequate bench strength or skills to do a storage consolidation project alone. Before you choose a services partner, be prepared to initiate a few upfront tasks:

This was first published in March 2003

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