Survey highlights capacity planning problems

Users are struggling to project storage growth accurately and are looking for better capacity planning tools, according to the latest wave of TheInfoPro's survey.

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A plea for better capacity planning tools stands out in the latest TheInfoPro survey as managing data growth continues to overwhelm storage users.

Of the 155 enterprise storage professionals who took the survey this month, structured data is growing the fastest, with data warehouses and relational databases making up the majority of this growth. Application reporting, file sharing and e-mail are causing the unstructured growth.

"Most of the difficultly around projecting growth is due to the lack of application visibility into structured data," according to Robert Stevenson, managing director for storage research at TheInfoPro.

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Most users say that capacity planning is rarely done at all. It has a reputation for being time-consuming, costly and difficult, and many IT staffers consider it another source of delay in any given project's rollout. As a result, most shops don't engage in the process except for the most mission-critical applications or highest profile new projects -- or when performance is coming to a crawl.

On the staffing side of the management equation, most users said that they have fewer than 50 terabytes of capacity managed per full-time employee.

Several users who took the survey agreed to be quoted on condition of anonymity.

"Because of the extensive growth, capacity and need to better manage our storage, … we are evaluating software automation for capacity planning and online data migration tools … Spending for implementation of these initiatives is budgeted for 2006," according to a $20 billion telecom company.

"We are looking at an SRM [storage resource management] tool that can do capacity planning," said a giant consumer goods company.

"[Doing capacity planning] EMC [Corp.] StorageScope is better than nothing. It relies on a hook into EMC ControlCenter, which is sometimes frustrating," said a $40 billion retail company.

"We do it all in our heads right now. I would like to see on the array side the ability to monitor long-term utilization. This is really just a wish list item right now."

Good capacity planning tools are thin on the ground and tend to be part of overall storage resource management products, like EMC's ECC software. MonoSphere Inc. recently introduced its Storage Horizon product that shows volumes that are almost full or underutilized. It also provides a forecasting engine that projects volume sizes over a given period of time and will track utilization by specific applications, such as Oracle, SQL Server or Exchange.

Other companies that include some capacity planning functionality include: Hewlett-Packard Co. with AppIQ, Storability, owned by Sun Microsystems Inc., Servergraph Inc., TekTools Inc. and WysDM Software Inc.

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