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Run storage as a utility

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People issues within the storage team will likely surface as the roles of some IT members change due to the different skill set required to manage a centralized storage environment rather than storage islands. "Initially, most IT administrators felt that their function and relevance within the IT organization had been reduced," says Deck.

Unlike storage silos, centralized storage that's operated like a utility requires strong processes. As a result, a big part of transitioning from a distributed to a centralized storage model is related to defining, redefining and adopting processes that regulate all aspects of storage: from how storage is acquired, provisioned, backed up and monitored, to how it's budgeted and costs are allocated to end users. The challenging aspect of introducing new processes isn't the actual process definition, but getting people to adopt and abide by them. "For less process-oriented companies, of which the large majority are smaller and midsized firms, this may require a change in culture; in all reality, it'll take time to permeate and it can only happen if it is mandated and championed by the executive staff," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group, a technology analyst and consulting firm in Stillwater, MN.

It typically takes companies several years to complete the transition to a centralized storage

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infrastructure. "It took us two and a half years to replace existing storage silos; it would have been too costly to replace existing storage islands that weren't fully depreciated," explains Deck.

The cost of the migration--and how to phase out legacy systems cost-efficiently--has a major impact on the length of the project. Having seen many companies successfully adopt centralized storage models, Nimish Shelat, outbound marketing manager for Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co.'s Storage Essentials, cautions that "multiyear projects are susceptible to getting off track ... the project plan needs to include an end-of-life schedule for each storage island and this schedule needs to be rigorously executed."

This was first published in December 2007

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