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Holidays are not party time for storage pros

The end of the year is a busy time for storage pros as salesman push to meet year-end quotas and IT plans for year-end operations.

Year-end operations can involve beginning the processes required to close the books of a company and many other business tasks. For the storage group, it typically means additional projects that can only be done when user activity is reduced. Most companies limit operations between Christmas and New Year’s, making it an opportune time for storage projects such as:

• Moving data from one storage system to another. This is done for several reasons: balancing workloads for data access to improve storage systems’ performance; balancing capacity to meet expected demands; and to utilize space more efficiently.

• Moving data off storage systems that are due to be retired as they come off maintenance or warranty.

• Deploying new storage systems to meet increased demand for capacity or performance. Deploying new storage is quickly followed by moving data again to distribute it according to application requirements.

• Increasing the size of data stores such as databases based on demands.

• Performing an end-of-year data protection cycle that will retain information based on business governance demands.

These projects are all critical to operations. Based on the conservative nature of storage professionals, they view these as tasks best done where the potential for impact is least.

So Happy Holidays for the storage (and other IT guys). The time will be spent either in the data center performing the tasks or at home monitoring and controlling the tasks remotely.The image of the storage guys watching multiple screens for operational status while the holiday parties rage on without them is real and has been the experience of most of us that have been in the industry for a long time.

So, why are there no Holiday-proof storage systems or data management software in wide usage? These would be ones that can balance data across the different systems (from different vendors). There are some systems and data management software that can balance or migrate data across like systems or a narrow subset of heterogeneous systems. There are even a few products that can work across any storage platform. But, for the most part, IT storage people still schedule these activities for reduced demand times to minimize potential impacts because they have experienced some impacts in the past and that memory was painful.

Some of the new products (software and hardware) seem to be quite good but the capabilities are limited to a few at this point. The confidence in using them is built over time and eventually the automation will seem like a commonplace activity and not something that requires special attention. But for now it’s the type of activity that makes storage pros fear a  “Danger Will Robinson, danger” moment.

This will change eventually, and the confidence will grow for the systems and software that can do these activities across multiple operational environments and not only for very specific usages. Vendors continue to make advances and the successes will allow for greater usage in the non-holiday time. Then maybe the storage guys can attend those parties without having to be on call or check on status.

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

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