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Consolidate to save money

An argument for storage consolidation from someone who is down in the trenches.

Consolidate to save money
By Hal Glatzer

Analysts may declare that the cost of storage management is rising faster than the cost of storage hardware. But Randy Roman begs to differ. The senior systems analyst at the Cessna division of Textron, in Wichita, KS, believes that distributing storage is what's expensive; and that cost-effective management comes through consolidation.

Roman and his colleague, senior systems analyst Tom Bevington, manage what Roman concedes is "a small shop that certainly costs under a million dollars." The company's mainframe (OS/390) data -- mainly customer records -- is stored in a 3.1 TB IBM Shark array and an IBM automated library of 20GB, 3590-format tapes under Computer Associates' (formerly Sterling's) Vantage software. Backups are trucked daily to a remote disaster-recovery site.

But several departments maintain their own databases on NT and Unix servers with NAS devices. "I'd like to move us away from server-based management and move everything onto the Shark by adding the open-systems, distributed-platform component of Vantage that can track the NT- and Unix-based data," Roman says.

The extra cost of distributed storage comes from relatively mundane problems. Leases for storage devices that expire on different dates can force data migration and coordination at what may be inconvenient times for IS management. Also, while some departments (he calls them "non-IS customers") have upper-management approval for acquiring their own servers and storage devices, they nonetheless require tech support from IS. "They don't always back up their data"? Roman says. "And they don't exactly 'manage' their storage either. When something happens, we get a phone call."

So Roman's advice is: "Move away from the server-storage model, and get everything consolidated. Do away with differently timed leases; get those servers back to doing OS work, back to running the databases. Have standards in place for storage quotas, and put usage regulations in place. Then -- through software -- enforce those regulations. Send an e-mail notification, for example, when a department reaches 90 percent of its quota and a warning at 95 percent."

Roman's pet peeve, incidentally, is all the non-company data -- Internet downloads, images and MP3 files, for example -- that consume storage resources and get backed up, wasting both tape and CPU cycles. "There's a policy against downloads that's being violated; but you have to have repercussions, or people ignore it. From a business standpoint, it costs money to let that continue."

Oh, and one more thing about consolidation: "'Enterprise Storage Administrator' is a beautiful term, but they haven't stuck it on us yet. We're still 'DASD Managers.'"

Hal Glatzer has covered the computer industry for more than twenty years, focusing on storage technologies, products and trends since 1990. He is also a jazz guitarist, and creator of the award-winning murder mystery "Too Dead To Swing".

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