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Looking ahead at 2004

Jamie Gruener gives suggestions on how to better manage your storage environment in the year ahead, and offers preditctions and New Years's resolutions designed to help you do so.

So we're into the first month of a new year, and already it feels different than the last few -- at least in how we will manage storage going forward. What's changing? Clearly, we've become a lot more concerned about elements of the data lifecycle then we might have been in previous years. In the last three months, I've had growing questions from storage administrators and architects about what "Information Lifecycle Management" really means. And OK, let's be clear about this -- we are still very much kicking the tires on this new storage deployment model and vendor marketing push.

A number of customers, like yourself, are re-examining how to organize their storage environments. They are looking for ways to tier storage based on service levels and data value, to improve the management of the data lifecycle, and to consider ways to establish storage as a utility.

And those storage projects you haven't had budget or bandwidth for in past years are getting new attention, and you're starting to research which vendors, technologies and best practices will fit the bill to roll these projects out. So, as you get settled in and continue down the road to better managing your storage environment, I've complied some predictions and some general New Year's Resolutions.


First iterations of Information Lifecycle Management from vendors in 2004 will not meet customer expectations or apply to many real world problems. It will take a year or more for vendors to fine-tune their strategies to meet customer requirements (including heterogeneous platforms). For customers, 2004 will be a year of assessment and discovery -- to really peel back the onion, so to speak, on how they organize and classify different kinds of data. (Expect further commentary on debunking the myths of ILM in the coming months from me).

Compliance focus only increases as more companies experience fines, crises, and new regulatory requirements that impact the data lifecycle. While vendors are placing a lot of attention on data retention, customers will also start to look at broader issues such as how the storage environment is organized and how compliance integrates with disaster recovery/business continuity and utility storage strategies.

Storage management tools that automate, migrate, assess, archive and protect will be the most popular among customers in 2004. Customers are still getting their arms around storage provisioning and automation, and these tools will be important to helping the storage "doers" reduce their workloads. This also is a year of upgrades, as customers start to try and standardize their data protection tools, especially backup software. And, tools that assist with data migration, archiving and assessment (such as Storage Resource Management) will be on the short list of tools to evaluate.


Work less. Many of you storage administrators and architects have to manage more data with less staff. (And, in my case as a new dad, it is mandatory to cut back work-time). That's why automation tools are starting to make more sense to handle provisioning, monitoring and other routine storage operations.

Automate more. I've said this a few times in columns and presentations, but we all need to assess how we manage different parts of the storage operations. Could you automate SAN management tools, storage provisioning, backup procedures, and basic storage array monitoring? Stop saying, "This is the way we have always done it…" Change is good.

Define data classes of service. This is proving to be a core step to any storage management strategy -- not only for data retention strategies, but any pilots or early deployments around building storage utilities.

Ask harder questions. It is time you pushed back on preferred vendors and told them where they are not meeting your needs, including explaining and delivering Information Lifecycle Management.

What's your New Year's resolution for how you manage your storage? Email me at

For more information:

Advice: 2004 storage management predictions: It's time for SM software to deliver

Advice: 2004 NAS predictions: NAS gateways and data center growth

Advice: 2004 storage management predictions: Management tools proliferate, iSCSI & ILM abound

About the author: Jamie Gruener is a expert and the primary analyst focused on the server and storage markets for the Yankee Group, an industry analyst firm in Boston, Mass. Jamie's coverage area includes storage management, storage best practices, storage systems, storage networking and server technologies. Ask him your storage management questions today.

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