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Users attempt shift to dedicated storage division

Users know they should be giving serious thought to either setting up a storage division within their IT organization or at least dedicating an IT pro to storage, but it's a lot easier said than done.

Users are beginning to come to grips with the fact that in the next year, they will have to have an IT pro within their organization dedicated solely to storage -- that is, if they expect to keep skyrocketing storage demands at bay.

"If the percentages of our budget continue to go to storage, we'd have to start considering [a storage department]," said Gary Wade of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Company.

Wade has not set up a storage department yet, but has three separate divisions within the IT department: one for Unix, one for Windows and one for mainframes.

"If you don't have a dedicated storage group in your organization, you'd better think again," said Nick Allen, vice president and research director of Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc..

Allen predicted that this year will be the first down year in storage growth, but that growth will return with a vengeance in 2003, leading to 180 exabytes of information by 2006.

He recommended setting aside room in the IT budget for training and storage management automation software to leverage staff resources, but he cautioned that the real challenge is not software; the challenge is knowing your environment and policies.

In his many visits to users as a storage software consultant for Houston-based BMC Software Inc., Art Spain has seen this coming for years.

"Many different organizations [are] concerned about storage issues. In the last few years I have observed a definite trend towards dedicating staff to storage issues," Spain said. "Unfortunately, I have also observed that in far too many cases, these dedicated storage staffers are not given sufficient authority and support from IT management to truly perform effective storage management."

Spain likens this "eerily similar" phase in the evolution of storage networking to the state of mainframe storage management in the early --> 80s, when, according to Spain, many organizations assigned dedicated staff to the position of direct access storage device (DASD) manager.

"It took these individuals many years of working on management and dealing with internal politics before they were truly allowed to manage storage," he said. "Storage management today is more than assigning LUNs or configuring zones, just like it was more than initializing volumes and writing ACS routines in the mainframe world."

Spain recommends seeking out some of the old mainframe DASD managers and finding out how they evolved into storage managers. He said that effective storage management begins at the very top of an IT organization and can only occur when those individuals who have been chosen to manage storage are given the appropriate authority, mandate and management support.

Steve Duplessie, an analyst and founder of Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group Inc., said that tapping former DASD managers is a smart play, assuming you have some mainframe folks on staff.

Most important to successfully setting up a storage group, Duplessie said, is learning how to create and document best practices for storage. It's a good idea to document processes for things like creating LUNs and assigning them to servers and applications, he said.

"My first piece of advice is to reset expectations within IT and throughout the company's various lines of business," Duplessie said. "Figure out what your capabilities really are, and then go from there."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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