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How to explain the SAN to your manager

I am a consultant for a midsized company. The IT director requires a variety of reports on the SAN environment. From a technical perspective, I know what I need to see, but I don't think that would necessarily translate to what a high-level IT manager or director requires in order to grasp a weekly, monthly and quarterly analysis of the SAN.

What type of data I should collect to create all the nice pie charts, trending histograms and so forth that would...

make management happy? In other words, what information is meaningful to management?

There are all different types of reports that can be created, and many SRM packages on the market today keep trying to leapfrog one another by providing the next greatest report, or allow the user to tune the report to a specific information set, but all of these reports may not answer the burning questions from the management of the organization. So, what are you left to do?

The answer is simple: Ask questions! Ask what the expectations are of the environment, goals for the organization, current pain points, budget for the group, and many, many more questions, and then devise reports that provide information on how the company's environment is doing based on the questions. Ask the management if they like to see reports that are numbers so they can derive out their own information or key points, or ask if they would like to see graphs, like availability, and helpdesk tickets created by area. I always suggest pulling together the top three of everything and then providing reports based on the top three pain points, focusing on what areas have consistently been problematic because these areas should be the focus areas for investment.

I would start asking the individual contributors in the company what they see the challenges as being and then report on these issues through the reporting system ... Many times, the individual contributors know where the challenges lie and are not able to share these with the management for fear of creating additional work and they can use the process as a communication channel to the management without openly calling out the challenges. By the way, there is no universal answer to the question "what information is meaningful to management?" There are a few answers that may matter to all organizations, not matter how big or small, including:

1.) Are our investments paying off? Focus on ROI/TCO numbers in the IT world. Measure and manage based on budget and payout of the technology. Map expenditures to real dollars saved. What has changed with the new technologies, in this case the SAN?

  • Has backup become easier?
  • Is the SAN quicker to restore?
  • Can data be managed easier?
  • Are there more or fewer people involved?
  • Is it quicker to provision storage when requested?

2) Do we understand our end-use customer's challenges and have a system in place that can be flexible enough to provide what they need? his example came from a company that I worked with many years ago. They wanted to understand how their storage pool costs affected their final product costs and wanted to be charged in terms of the cost of the final product, not the storage product costs. A relatively inventive idea for the time. In fact, the CIO said that if he could save $.10 per every product coming off the line with $1.0 saved in IT then he could provide millions to the company's bottom line without rearchitecting the entire company.

This was last published in October 2004

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