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Storage management is elusive, but not impossible to grasp

Words of wisdom from storage guru Jon Toigo: You can't do it, if you don't get it.

Despite all the talk about storage management, the concept is elusive to most IT storage shops and will remain so until users and vendors grasp it.

"The meteoric rise of data, lack of vendor cooperation and a tendency of businesses to 'panic buy' is making it more difficult," said consultant Jon Toigo, a speaker at the Storage Decisions 2001 conference held last month in Chicago.

"Most people think of storage management as one thing: The monitoring and maintenance of a storage platform to insure efficiency. In fact, it's something more," said Toigo.

Actually, it's better thought of as a strategy that aims at creating a storage infrastructure from a morass of storage devices, cables and switches, he said. "It's more than deploying a bunch of tools. There are a lot of proactive steps and pre-thinking that needs to be done before you shell out a dime for a storage management tool."

"Users have to be able to define storage management, before they truly manage their storage," he said.

Part of the problem, said Toigo, is that storage management isn't sexy.

"We all like to build stuff," he said. "We get energized. Nobody likes to think about management. It's that maintenance stuff we think of after the fact. But, that after the fact stuff is where the cost is."

Toigo said the biggest myth confusing users is that there's a tool out there that does it all.

"That's the hype of storage vendors -- that there's a one-stop shop," he said.

Avoiding the hype

Toigo suggests users make an evolutionary plan for managing storage infrastructures. More importantly, make storage management the number one selection criteria when buying storage products.

"Storage management is a strategy," he said. "It's not something you add on to after you bought it."

According to Toigo, business process is inseparable from IT.

"I mean, what part of your business isn't based on technology? IT enables and can inhibit corporate profitability," he said. Upshot: A basic element of storage management is to concentrate on the bottom line -- return on investment.

"Show me a real ROI. It always depresses me to hear people say ROI is only for the bean counters. The reason for ROI is to determine if it supports management. If it doesn't support efficient management [the product] isn't worth it.

Toigo also recommends not centralizing data. He said administrators tend to centralize data in order to make it easier to manage, when in fact, it only makes it more difficult.

"Centralize where it makes sense and decentralize where it makes sense. The only thing you should centralize is management."

Overall, users need to focus on business sensibilities, said Toigo. "If you don't, you'll be out of a job."

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