Feature

The glass is half full

You can wring your hands over a shrinking storage budget or you can do something creative about it.

"What, me worry?" says MAD magazine's Alfred E. Neuman, with his goofy, glazed-over grin. Move over, Alfred, I'm with you. No, I'm not subscribing to his haven't-a-clue outlook on life. I'm just doing my best to find the silver lining in an ever-so-gloomy economy, and I think it's time to try optimism and opportunities amid all the bad news.

And there's no shortage of bad news. Forrester Research recently published a report that predicts IT spending will drop by 3.1% this year in contrast to the 1.6% hike they had predicted earlier. (It's hard to figure out how they ever projected an increase.) Still, I'd argue that 3.1% doesn't equal a doomsday drop.

IDC also revisited some of its earlier prognostications for storage in 2009 and -- surprise -- rejiggered their numbers downward, too. The IT think tank says worldwide disk system spending will drop by 6.7% or, as they stated in their press release, "total disk storage systems spending will experience -6.7% year-over-year worldwide growth in 2009." Wait a second … a negative gain in growth? Talk about looking for a silver lining. However, IDC also predicts worldwide external disk system capacity will grow by 44% this year. True, it's lower than the traditional 50% to 60% annual growth, but it's not too shabby an estimate.

Even Storage magazine's own Purchasing Intentions

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survey (see "The time is right for efficient storage") shows that on average your storage budgets are headed south by about 1.9% in 2009. That's the first time we've seen the budget number drift into negative territory, but it seems like a pretty shallow dip all things considered.

Clearly, things aren't as good as they could be or used to be. It's a serious situation, and I'm not making light of how the economic tailspin has affected lots and lots of people. I just don't think it will have that great of a negative impact on storage shops; indeed, I believe it could have a profound and positive effect.

Anyone managing storage operations this year isn't likely to be having fun. You have new capacity demands and less money to spend than last year. What's new? For storage, and IT in general, budgets have to be twisted, turned and stretched every year. Do you ever remember saying anything like, "Whoa, there's way too much money in my budget"?

But storage managers are smart. They think strategically. For the most part, they know they'll have to live with the decisions they make for a long time. And some of the less strategic maneuvers made in the past, like continually throwing money at new arrays to stem the tide of capacity growth, just won't wash anymore. And that's a good thing, as Martha Stewart might say. That's why our survey results in this issue appear under such a positive headline. Being strapped for dough will make us all more resourceful, and keep us looking for more creative ways to deal with today's storage demands -- which aren't so different from yesterday's and probably tomorrow's.

In stressful times there's often an inclination to resort to stopgap measures: just patch it and pray, and we'll deal with it later. It's about as normal a response as you can expect, even if it's only kicking the can down the street.

Some of you, however, will see all of this in a different light and recognize that tough times can also offer opportunity. Maybe this is the perfect time to do something about sprawling capacity, more than just buying additional disk, which requires more space, power and administrative attention. You could, for example, spend far less than what you would on a new array and buy a compression product that would squeeze your nearline storage down to more manageable proportions and free up some valuable space at the same time. Setting up an archive or an automated migration process to better tier your storage could yield equal (and impressive) results.

You can probably think of a dozen other things along those lines. And maybe you've been putting off a lot of them because there were higher priorities. But what could be a higher priority than using those diminished budget dollars to get more out of what you already have?

As perverse as it may seem, something as sobering as a recession can often reveal new opportunities, a chance to be creative and push the limits. Take it from a guy who just managed to quote Alfred E. Neuman and Martha Stewart in the same column.

Click here for a sneak peek at what's coming up in the June issue

BIO: Rich Castagna (rcastagna@storagemagazine.com) is Editorial Director of the Storage Media Group.

This was first published in May 2009

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