Where the storage things are

Rarely does one get a chance to equate the storage industry to Maurice Sendak's classic children's tale "Where the wild things are." But, let's give it a shot.

If you remember the story, a misbehaving young Max gets sent to bed without his dinner. While dreaming, he transports himself to a new land of wild creatures. Somehow he tames them and becomes king of the "wild" land. After a brief stint as king, Max, missing home, returns to find his dinner waiting for him.

Looking back on storage, pre-Y2K, there was a lot of misbehavin'. Wild spending and massive expenditures flooded the market. When Y2K and the Sept. 11 terrorist attack passed, storage managers were sent to their data centers with the directive to tame them.

But just as Max did, many of you storage managers rose to the occasion. And now, after numerous consolidation projects, a suffocating tightening of budgets, chopping of head count and going through the arduous task of creating smart disaster recovery plans -- it's finally time to eat your dinner.

But before you lift your fork, it might be time to take one more step back.

Speakers and users at Storage Networking World last week urged attendees to stop thinking speeds and feeds, but instead gain a better perspective of how their overall business is run. Bob Shinn, principal, State Street Global Advisor and Bob Logan, vice president, Enterprise Infrastructure Services at Science Applications International Corp., both echoed the need to understand how the storage operation can support the enduser and the goal of your company – by moving merchandise.

"Technically manage from a business perspective," Logan said.

Logan (who, by the way, manages selfdubbed "Noah's Ark of storage" – two of everything) said his team was too concerned with putting out every fire and not keying in on the fires that were most critical to making the business run.

Once Logan started understanding the business, his job of making decisions as to what to fix, implement and configure got much easier. He also started to get feedback from the business units about operations.

One way to get feedback from the business units is to take the approach John Fagg took. Fagg is the manager of server and storage infrastructure at the University of Utah Hospital.

"We staged a mock disaster recovery drill," Fagg said. "Business managers had to then tell us which applications were most critical and had to be online first. It was a real eye-opener for them."

Fagg said the business never realized how important communications and internal systems were to the health of the hospital, should a disaster strike.

A big part of the equation in controlling costs is devising a rock-solid tiered storage architecture. Knowing the business will allow you to understand which data needs white glove, red-carpet treatment and when it can be moved off to lower cost targets.

(Beware: Inserting shameless plug here.) If you are looking for detailed information on how to setup a tiered storage infrastructure, look no further than next month's Storage Decisions conference in Chicago. The agenda is jam-packed with technical tips and tricks on how to actually go about making a tiered architecture a reality.

Now, you can pick up your fork and indulge.

Have a good week,

Mark

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