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Let automation solve your storage headaches

Bits & Bytes: This tip discusses an ideal storage world where you can set up your storage infrastructure to run itself -- and how the key to achieving that is provisioning.

Over the last few years we've seen an incredible investment in storage technology. SANs and NAS devices have cost billions to bring to market -- and have great value. But is this where we should focus our attention today? If you are not American Express, MasterCard or Livermore Labs, do you really need a bigger or faster storage device than what is already available? Is this the real opportunity in storage management for your organization?

For most of us, the dominant issue in storage management is its on-going cost of ownership and operation. In fact, lots of companies don't need more storage; they could do quite well with less. Managing what they have is the challenge. The tasks of provisioning, control, backup and recovery are where the big money is and where the business opportunities can be found. Whether you have a SAN, a NAS or plain old RAID, you can automate these functions and greatly reduce your cost of ownership.

Let's look at provisioning.

There is no reason to think of shared storage as being different from any other office supply. We need it to do our job; its use has to be controlled and we have to manage the cost. Providing users with storage is a business we cannot get out of. Why not make it as simple as filling out a requisition for office supplies?

SANs, NAS devices and even RAID under Windows 2000 support volumes that can be expanded dynamically. User and share storage limits can be manipulated programmatically. To automate provisioning all we need is the infrastructure to tie this together and couple it with an automated approval process.

Many companies already use workflow automation to handle the administrative aspects of purchasing. This is no reason this same approach cannot be used for storage requests.

With the use of third party tools, the technology exists to create self-managing storage. You can tie the provisioning infrastructure together with the approval process. This allows you to create a set-it-and-forget-it infrastructure that, once established, lets the users and the resources to manage themselves. Why spend limited and costly staff time examining which bits go on which drives? Let the technology handle it.

Imagine a world in which once you set up your storage infrastructure it runs itself and you can move on to other things... The technology exists to do this today.

About the author: Bruce Backa is chief technical officer (CTO) for NTP Software, a long-standing IT leader and one of's storage management experts. Ask him your storage management question today.

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