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How to build a storage management practice

Storage managers are responsible for aligning digital storage with the business requirements at the lowest cost. Expert Norbert Haag discusses how to accomplish these tasks.

Storage management is often looked at as a discipline that deals with maintaining and configuring storage resources. However, the danger with this point of view is that it could reduce storage management to a purely technical effort. And while there's no question that maintaining and configuring storage resources is an important part of the daily operation of every storage team, these tasks truly belong to those in operations who deal with the technical part of storage management rather than those who manage and allocate the resources.

So what exactly is storage management? First and foremost, storage managers are responsible for making digitally stored data accessible, secure and reliable at a quality required by the process that uses the data. Another way to look at this is that storage management has to provide the resources, process and methodologies of digital storage and align them with the business requirements -- all at the lowest cost possible.

A better definition of storage management that encompasses the non technical aspects as well could look like this: Storage management is a set of disciplines that defines storage in terms of performance, security and availability focused on the requirements of the data users. This definition embraces the general management issues and the technical issues as well.

These disciplines require administration through storage management policies and can best be fulfilled by having a central storage management team for complete control of implementation of storage policies. This group should be responsible for all aspects of management storage resources and providing best-of-breed solutions that can meet the future growth requirements while maintaining a strict control over money spent on storage.

Building such a team and developing a storage management practice should be done in a project. Such a storage management project should have eight phases which we'll look at in detail in this series of articles. The phases are:

  • Understand and assess the requirements. Assessing the current storage environment and understanding the requirements in terms of growth, accessibility and reliability is the foundation of every storage practice. There are several different aspects that have to be taken into account when it comes to storage assessments and there are many questions that have to be answered by the data gathered.

  • Form a storage management team. Having a dedicated storage team is an integral part of building and sustaining a storage practice. There are many tasks this team should be responsible for and there are also many obstacles this team will have to overcome.

  • Define the strategic storage roadmap. It's important to take the time to develop storage strategies that guide the direction of the storage environment and are flexible enough to fit into a rapidly changing business. To accomplish these tasks, there are several approaches you can take and there are several things -- like cost, staffing, software and hardware -- will have an impact on your strategy.

  • Define storage management policies. Policies are written knowledge to define the boundaries a process has to run within. Policies are the foundation for automated storage operations management (SOM) and should be well crafted and evaluated to make data processing easier and storage management more cost effective.

  • Consult with users and management. Change is inevitable but not always welcome. Especially when you try to change the way resources (storage) are paid for and used you need to know how this change impacts the various stakeholders. We'll look at those impacts and show ways to create win-win solutions that have already been proven to work.

  • Implement the design solution. Implementation is the last hurdle on the way towards a good storage practice. This part of the series will focus on the contributions others have made so far and the lessons learned from their projects.

  • Monitor and maintain this solution. Once your storage practice is in place, it's time to think about the refinement of the processes. New software like the AIM suite from Creekpath Systems can help improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of a well-designed storage practice remarkably. We'll look at these systems and evaluate their potential in streamlining your storage practice.

    In the following articles we'll look in detail at the stages of building a storage management practice, starting with the first phase of "Understanding and assessing the requirements."

    Norbert is available to answer your storage management questions. Click here if you would like to ask Norbert a question.

    About the author: Haag is a storage management consultant for Fortune 500 firms throughout the world, where he specializes in conducting storage assessments, financial analyses and strategic storage planning. Prior to starting his own Swiss-based consulting firm, Haag worked for many years in the field of storage resource management, including time spent as a business consultant to Central Europe for HighGround Systems. After HighGround's acquisition by Sun Microsystems, Haag also was involved in integrating SRM into Sun's portfolio. While at Sun, he also served in the Professional Services group for Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

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