Data storage challenges outpace decision-making strategies

Data storage challenges outpace decision-making strategies

Data storage challenges outpace decision-making strategies

Date: Oct 17, 2012

In the last installment of his seven-part tip series, Jon Toigo, CEO and managing principal of Toigo Partners International, and chairman of the Data Management Institute, examines common decision-making processes in today's IT environments. According to Jon, these processes aren't effective enough to deal with the 'storage infrastruggle,' a term he's coined to describe the many data storage challenges faced by storage pros. Watch the video above or read the text below to see where storage technology decision makers fall short.

Please read Toigo's entire video-tip series on data management issues

Toigo: Pay more attention to how you manage data

Exponential storage growth just one of the problems with server virtualization

Eliminating 'disk everywhere' methodology key to improving efficiency, decreasing costs

How vendors use auto tiering and other software to disrupt storage hierarchies

Why value-add software can't solve all data storage usage issues

Don't let vendors distract you from problems associated with the cloud

The storage infrastruggle is mainly created by the proliferation of unmanaged data across unmanaged or poorly managed storage infrastructures. Addressing data storage challenges, as well as such closely related issues as cost, performance, agility and sustainability, requires a data storage strategy.

For obvious reasons, this storage strategy must embrace both technology considerations and business requirements. IT pros may be adept at assessing storage technologies and testing their suitability to specific workload requirements. However, the successful design and implementation of a strategy requires buy-in from the business side of the house, if only in the form of budget approval.

Business decision makers may not understand the technical nuances of a strategic approach to building storage, or the meaning of technical metrics used to describe performance improvements, so a fully formed business value narrative using terms and language familiar to business managers is usually required to tackle data storage challenges. That's another way of saying that a data storage strategy needs to be framed as an investment and evaluated in terms of its impact on three traditional categories of business value: cost containment, risk reduction and improved productivity.

How will your proposal reduce costs for the company? How will the strategy bend the storage cost curve, reduce vendor lock-in, eliminate downtime, enable fewer administrators to manage more capacity, and provide a way to buy best-of breed-storage componentry but manage it in common? These are just a few of the questions that need to be addressed in the first part of the narrative.

How will the strategy reduce risk, not just in terms of potential downtime or data loss, but from an investment perspective? How do you plan to reduce the likelihood of vendor lock-ins that distort pricing for commodity hardware components? How will you provide maintenance support for your infrastructure that doesn't increase in cost significantly after three years? How do you enable the deployment of lower cost, used gear or off-brand storage without significant loss of performance or reliability? These are just a few ideas of the questions that might find their way into your risk-reduction value narrative.

Finally, how is the strategy you're proposing going to increase user productivity, or drive profits through greater market access or enabling the management of increased workloads? Will the strategy support greater agility by enabling resources to be adjusted on a dime to support lines of business showing greater activity? The strategy pitch that IT planners develop need to address these kinds of questions.

Of course, this assumes that IT planners are motivated to develop a strategy and advocate for its adoption. In many firms today, IT is demoralized. In a recent case, after a business magazine ran a vendor-sponsored article extolling clouds as the "ticket to the corner office" for up-and-coming corporate managers, an IT manager said he received daily phone calls from managers asking when he was unplugging all the hardware and moving to the cloud.

Public cloud services are a tactical approach to the problem of the storage infrastruggle and may play a role in a more generalized data storage strategy. But storage cloud services are rarely, if ever, a comprehensive or strategic response to the challenge of unmanaged data over a poorly managed infrastructure. Despite this truth, some IT planners have given up even attempting to change mistaken views or attitudes.

Vendor marketecture seems to have achieved a pitch perfect level in the selling of "silver bullet" tactics as data storage strategy. Issues include shoddy research and reporting about data storage products and services, channel manipulation and channel stuffing to provide the appearance of robust growth of a particular storage technology or service, online and peer bullying of both consumers, bloggers and other commentators who question the architecture or business value of a product or service, and more. Money spent wisely on bad products can, temporarily at least, make the products very successful: PT Barnum was correct.

Still, if companies are to emerge stronger and more competitive, ways and means must be found to encourage strategic thinking and decision making that solves data storage challenges.

More on Enterprise storage, planning and management

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