The benefits of application-specific storage


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The process puzzle
After flushing out business and regulatory requirements, it's time for storage managers to look in the mirror and examine operating processes and procedures. This seems straightforward, but it may take a bit of detective work to figure out how IT and business processes map together. Functional storage operations tasks are often done piecemeal, without regard for the business process they support. IT sleuths will need to put the puzzle together to gain a comprehensive view. Storage executives should give this assignment to project managers who know their way around the IT organization. Give them ample time because it may take a while to look under every rock.

By now, storage executives have all of the research they need to move forward. Make a list of all the business processes from the highest to lowest priority. Map these to the supporting storage processes. Make sure to note whether the storage processes are both manual and time-consuming or streamlined and efficient. The high-priority business processes supported by manual and time-consuming operations are prime candidates for application-specific storage. Based on this, put together an ROI study to see where and how the company can increase efficiencies by implementing some of these new storage tools. Put together a brief report on the entire study and then team up with business managers to discuss these findings with the CFO.

Let's assume you've

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done a bang-up job and the financial managers agree to fund your application-specific storage efforts. What's next? Don't abandon your standardization philosophy just yet. Schedule a meeting with your preferred storage vendor to share your requirements. Be careful here. This shouldn't be viewed as an opportunity to play a few rounds of golf and turn over a purchase order. You must tell your vendors that your two objectives are to select application-specific storage technologies to support the business and to stick as close to IT standards as possible. Your storage vendor should in turn provide an overview of its product portfolio and strategic road map. Remember, you aren't just looking for products; you are looking for a comprehensive offering that features common management and administration tools and can be supported by your existing personnel.

Give your current vendors first crack at your business, but don't simply default to them. Keep in mind that application-specific storage products are a new breed and it's just as likely that a startup has the right solution. (See "Reconsidering startups," in the February 2004 issue of Storage.) Invite several vendors to bid on your business, check references and speak to the smartest people you can find on each product. Try to map new solutions as closely to storage standards as possible.

Final word
One last note to consider: Don't forget to think through the security ramifications of application-specific storage before proceeding. A device that can provide instant restores is great, but what if bad guys can easily attack this device and delete or modify data? Certainly, companies would rather sweat through an eight-hour system reload than instantly restore corrupted data.

Application-specific storage already offers substantial ROI for many enterprises; but then again, so do IT standards. The key is to embrace solutions that produce business value without much disruption. A patient and prudent approach is the best method. Make sure that you work with the business and IT folks to understand the operations requirements before you address the highest-priority issues. This is a sure-fire way to produce results while keeping business and IT executives smiling.

This was first published in March 2004

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