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Searching for seamless consolidation

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A common storage model
The common operating model defines a standard menu of storage services available to business managers and the various technologies that are to be used to deliver each level of service. As part of that definition, the number of primary storage vendors used by Hightower's group is being reduced from six to two. The service delivery model defines how Lockheed Martin's storage group will be organized--and where and how storage resources will be deployed--to deliver the service levels required by the business at the lowest cost.

"It looks at things like how do we consolidate storage regionally and manage it centrally," says Hightower.

Lockheed Martin is still developing both models. They are expected to be deployed in the company's primary data center in Sunnyvale, CA, by 2005 and are also available to managers of data centers run by other Lockheed Martin business units.

Experienced consolidators say it's also critical to take a comprehensive inventory of the storage service level requirements of all key applications. That's because as management of SANs and other networked storage resources are consolidated, more applications will be competing for the most desirable storage.

"You need an objective way to decide what tier of storage each application should have based on its performance, availability, recovery needs and how fast its storage needs are growing," says Reliant's Brazil. That's

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what his team created in Phase 1. After developing a service level profile and storage cost estimate for each application, Brazil asked business owners which tier of storage they wanted and would be willing to pay for. Usually business managers agreed with his team's choices.

The service level definitions originally developed by his team at Reliant will now be used to decide which data goes where once Phase 2 goes into place.

The success of a networked storage consolidation projects often ride on the types of applications and data you first select for consolidation. First American Trust, for example, started with Word, Excel and other user files which, if lost or compromised, would not have threatened the company. Those files represented about 15% of First American Trust's total storage.

And when he decided to expand use of the NetApp NAS devices, First American Trust's Jenkins began with a brand new Linux-based wire transfer application. "It was perfect because it didn't have any legacy storage attached to it, but it was something that we really didn't want to go down," says Jenkins. "So we were able to justify linking it into the NAS network by focusing on the clustering capabilities."

Only once he'd successfully consolidated user files and data from the wire transfer application onto NAS did Jenkins attempt the SQL Server database volumes. And again, Jenkins sold the networked storage consolidation project as a key piece of a new, companywide disaster-recovery project.

"Justifying storage consolidation is a whole different ball game compared to justifying initial SAN or NAS deployments," says Carl Greiner, infrastructure services senior vice president at Meta Group in Stamford, CT. "The smart thing to do is to tie it to a larger corporate initiative like disaster recovery."

Even for companies selecting the right projects and taking pains to establish in advance standard storage processes and service level definitions, getting to a consolidated, centrally managed networked storage will be a huge challenge. And the biggest roadblock, say many managers, is the lack of robust, heterogeneous storage management software tools.

This was first published in October 2003

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