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Don’t let your data center turn into a storage museum

Did you ever have a visitor to your data center say, “I didn’t know any of these systems were still around?” The implication here is that your data center is one step away from being a museum. Having “museum worthy” systems is not a badge of honor. It means that the systems in the data center are probably not delivering optimal value.

For a storage system, this can be especially bad. Disk systems are typically in use no longer than five years. There’s good reason for these systems to have a limited lifespan. They are electro-mechanical devices that wear out when in constant usage.

Another reason not to let a disk storage system grow old is the continued advances in technology that allows more data to be stored in a smaller space with less power and cooling requirements in a new disk system. Every new disk generation, which changes on about an 18-month cycle, adds to the storage efficiency equation. New disk systems increase performance and often add new capabilities that can be exploited for improved operations. For instance, newer features in current systems include support of APIs for server virtualization hypervisors.

But, some storage systems may still be in use even though there are more efficient systems available. Reasons for storing information on these include:

• They may be used as secondary storage for less critical data.
• The costs may be minimized by not having full maintenance or support and IT has made a decision to take the risks.
• A legacy application may be running that has not yet been virtualized.

Sometimes the five-year lifespan might start just prior to a major technology shift such as the transition to systems that can incorporate solid state technology. In that case, a system that appears to be an artifact because it does not support the latest technology or features really is not old and may have years left before the asset is depreciated. This may be a good candidate to turn into secondary storage.

Maybe there are good reasons why some data centers look like museums. For storage, however, not keeping up with technology can impact in other areas. The older system may lack support for new server virtualization features while consuming more physical space and power and lacking performance requirements for demanding applications.

So take a long look at the museum quality of the storage in your data center. It can be a major indicator of inefficiency … and of optimization opportunities.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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