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Storage Decisions 2002 preview: Gruener provides pivotal questions to assess storage needs

Assessing your current and future storage needs can be a harrowing experience without some sound advice from those who've heard about the success and failure of past enterprise storage projects. In this Q&A interview, SearchStorage asked Yankee Group Senior Analyst Jamie Gruener for his input on this topic and future trends IT pros should consider when making storage decisions. Here, Gruener offers some high-level insights from his upcoming Storage Decisions conference session this September, "Storage strategy: What's your next move?"

You hear from a lot of storage customers. What would you say is the #1 thing most forget to do when implementing networked storage?
Most don't look closely at lifecycle costs, especially management and maintenance costs and what that means to personnel costs over the life of the product. Vendors have become extremely good at hiding maintenance fees in multi-year contracts, so customers need to do a lot of due diligence before signing on with a specific vendor. When it comes to assessing current/future storage needs, is the size of an IT organization a factor in deciding whether to outsource this process or perform it in-house?
Absolutely. The more complex the storage environment and the demands of the data center, the more likely the assessment of storage needs should be outsourced. One crucial problem customers face though is selecting an impartial third-party that isn't necessarily a storage vendor, but is an integrator that has a core understanding of storage. That is truly a significant challenge today, as very few vendors like that exist. If an IT organization performs this assessment in-house, can you provide a thumbnail sketch of the key ways to approach it?
Understand your growth dynamics for storage, how targeted corporate initiatives will factor into storage growth in the coming years, and map these demands into new technologies going forward. We've been hearing a lot about ROI. How important is it in making decisions within today's enterprise, and who's most likely to perform a storage ROI assessment within an IT organization?
ROI is crucial today to the success of company new storage deployments. It should be spearheaded by the VP of IT, with feedback from deployment teams, your operations people (who will be managing it), and review from your senior executives. The point is: all of them have a vested interest in the new storage deployment, and should be stakeholders in the success. We're hearing a lot about SAN/NAS convergence. What's your take on it?
It is happening today. The convergence will really change the way customers view storage deployment strategies at both the storage systems and storage networking layer. But it's going to take some time for this really to come to fruition, as customers still will have a number of very specific storage requirements that will require them to purchase systems with advanced file and block-level features. What are some of the questions IT decision makers should ask themselves when it comes to whether or not the technology and purchase decisions they've made today will stand the test of time?
I see there being four interrelated questions. First what competitive advantage does one get by deploying this technology today? What's the return on investment of this new technology? And, how will this technology fit into my corporate strategy going forward? What are the maintenance costs associated with deploying this technology and are vendors committed to the technology for the long term? What will the storage network of the future look like? There are many emerging protocols here now and on the horizon. Care to make a few predictions?
I believe the future of storage networking will be mixed with multiple protocols depending on what customers are trying to accomplish. IP will increasingly play an important role in this equation as will InfiniBand. Multi-protocol storage networks will be the norm by 2005, with increasing number of IP SANs -- especially at the lower end of the market.

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