Taking a cue from their brethren in the "other" storage industry -- those rentable storage units, beloved by small investors, that seem to crop up at every highway interchange, and actually earn their owners money, IT storage folks are hopping on the bandwagon by beginning to levy "chargebacks" on their data storage customers.

To be sure, its still something of a leading edge phenomenon but analysts say it's a trend that seems to have legs, thanks in part to the improved capabilities of SRM vendor tools.

Jamie Gruener, senior analyst for storage at Yankee Group, says that SRM "has been on everyone's short list of things to adopt," but for various reasons has never really caught fire. But, he adds, as IT generally moves toward a more utility-focused approach, SRM will come and storage chargebacks with it. Gruener says chargebacks will be a core building block in a larger process of setting service levels, assessing capacity and more actively managing assets. Gruener says Yankee Group did a survey of 300 storage decision makers last year and "at that time 30 percent of the Global 2000 had started to create a charge back process." he says. In practice, Gruener says that probably means they are starting to slice up their budgets based on a "seat of the pants" analysis rather than something more structured. But structure and formality will come as SRM is more widely adopted.

Like Gruener, Arun Taneja, principal of the Taneja Group, says the SRM vendors are "getting

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there" in terms of delivering all the capabilities needed to make charge back work well. However, he notes, even the most advanced products are still not that widely deployed yet, so no one is too sure how well they work.

Taneja says the charge back approach is a natural evolution, especially for larger companies with IT shops that are trying to satisfy the needs of a variety of groups or divisions. "They have to find a way to balance demands, in terms of cost and availability, for everything from the most elaborate, large-scale, leading-edge products to simple serial ATA devices as well as the data protection that goes along with all that," he says.

"The only way that can really work effectively is if you have a charge back mechanism," he adds. Without a charge back mechanism, Taneja says, "end users will always ask for the very best."

For more information:

Tip: Prepare for future trends in storage management

Tip: Assessing the cost/benefit ratio for storage quotas

Tip: A growing concern amid storage consolidation

About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, MA.

This was first published in February 2004

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