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Who's running the storage shop?

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What should a storage team do?
The next step is to define specific responsibilities and activities. The basic responsibility of a storage management team--regardless of team size--is to ensure the daily operations of the storage network. This includes, at a minimum:

  • Backup and recovery
  • Maintaining the storage area network (SAN) fabric and arrays
  • Implementing new devices
  • Performance monitoring
  • Capacity monitoring and load balancing
  • Provisioning
For some teams, the roles have expanded to include planning, forecasting and some budgetary duties, including capacity planning, making recommendations and researching and evaluating new technologies and products.

The degree that storage personnel are involved in these responsibilities vary, and is related more to reporting structures and the organization of companies' IT groups than to the size of the storage team. For example, Bruce Hall, a senior storage architect at a major financial services and health care company, says that while the company has a storage staff of approximately 15 people, storage capacity planning is handled by a group that works with the business units to develop capacity plans for all computing systems. Larger companies like Hall's enjoy the advantages of having proportionally large storage staffs, where the degree of specialization is much greater than in modestly sized groups.

The

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bigger shops also tend to be better equipped with higher-end management tools. Anders Lofgren and Jim Geronaitis, VPs in Computer Associates' BrightStor Storage Management Group, see larger companies leveraging the efficiencies gained by using tools such as storage resource management (SRM) and SAN management applications so that they can now begin to look more closely at the value that's placed on the company's data, especially in light of regulatory requirements. They also note that with greater specialization, companies are focusing more on automation to help deal with growing storage capacities. Aided by these sophisticated applications, Drapeau says that these teams can be less reactive and get more deeply involved in advanced processes such as:
  • Proactive monitoring
  • Developing more advanced diagnostic techniques
  • Automating restore operations
  • Advanced capacity planning
  • Conducting storage architecture reviews
  • Using topology renderings to determine connectivity issues and capabilities
Budgeting responsibilities vary, too, but not based on the size of the storage group. The degree to which the storage team is involved in setting or approving budgets hinges on the corporate management level to which it reports. As vice president and director of information and technologies for HDR, Privetera makes budgeting decisions related to requests from business units; for enterprise-wide storage systems expenditures, Privetera submits his proposed storage budgets directly to the company's CEO and CFO.

Even when its not responsible for making the final decisions on budget expenditures, a storage team typically plays an advisory role in determining budgets. This may involve analyzing requests from business units, assessing the costs and making recommendations.

This was first published in May 2004

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