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Centralized Storage No Fad

From beaver skins to coon skin caps, Canadian retailing giant Hudson's Bay Company has seen many fashions come and go over its long and colorful history, which started 332 years ago under a charter from England's then king - Charles II - to trap and sell furs.

But when it comes to storage, HBC's IT staff never fell for the decentralized management fad of the '80s and '90s. A devout mainframe shop, HBC's IT staff has practiced centralized storage management all along. "We don't believe in letting individual sysadmins take care of their little nugget of storage," says Laurence Whittaker, supervisor of the enterprise storage management group's support services - a group, incidentally, which was formed 14 years ago.

HBC did succumb to a new trend three years ago - open systems - in order to be able to implement new applications such as Retek and Oracle Financials faster.

But to Whittaker's chagrin, with open systems came uncontrolled storage growth. Using IBM AIX and NT servers connected to IBM Shark storage, what started out as 3TB of storage on open systems has ballooned to 12TB, compared to the mainframe environment's more modest growth from 7TB to 9.5TB.

"The environment has tripled in size, is three to four times more complex, and we're managing it with the same number of staff we had three years ago," Whittaker says.

Part of open systems' storage growth can be attributed to new applications, says Whittaker, but "there's no question that storage on open systems isn't being used as efficiently as it is in the mainframe."

Bringing that growth into check is one of Whittaker's prime directives. The company recently purchased the Patrol Storage Management module from BMC Software, and it's working with BMC's professional services to implement it. With it in place, Whittaker hopes to contain open systems storage growth to under 50% per year.

Moving forward, Whittaker says he's interested in examining technologies such as data migration software and policy-based management, and in general, establishing a central point of management control. "In [HBC's] open systems, you have 20 different servers attached to all different kinds of storage," Whittaker says. "Where is the point of administration in that environment?"

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