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Part two: Three steps to complete storage consolidation

Identifying three types of consolidation and how to simplify storage management using all three.

Click to read part one of Jim Booth's storage management series.

When discussing how to simplify storage management, it is important to highlight the role of consolidation within the enterprise infrastructure. While the benefits of consolidation are understood by most, a few areas are not being fully exploited. This tip to covers these hidden areas of consolidation as defined by end users and how each consolidation component can be implemented.

Types of consolidation
The first type of consolidation most people think about is hardware. How much space, computing power and storage can I reduce by merging islands of hardware into a single hardware platform? But two other areas must not be overlooked: software consolidation and, most importantly of all, process consolidation.

Hardware consolidation
Hardware consolidation is important for several reasons. It allows the user to leverage the evolving technology by using faster processors, and for the purposes of our discussion, larger and faster disk drives. Most organizations are consolidating in a two-tier architecture of mid-tier and high-end storage systems. Taking this a step father are those that have decided to use a single platform for all their storage needs. This certainly makes storage management tasks easier since the storage subsystem is a well-known quantity. Once a minimal number of storage platforms are being used, software consolidation can begin.

Software consolidation
With hardware consolidation in place, software consolidation is easier to implement since the number of hardware platforms is reduced. In the most drastic case, the storage management software of a hardware vendor can be used. But this would only benefit you if you planned to never integrate another type of hardware platform (which is doubtful). The primary benefit of software consolidation is to provide a common tool for managing storage. Training time is reduced and operations standards are easier to implement.

Process consolidation
The last consolidation issue, process consolidation, can have the greatest impact. Building upon the benefits of software consolidation, process consolidation allows the user to perform the same action without having to fully understand the underlying technical issues. For example, the command to map a port on a Brocade switch is done the same way as McData. The latest storage management software takes into consideration the unique capabilities of the switches and will only present the options for Brocade if that is the fabric element. This is very powerful since now the user only has to know that he or she is mapping a port and not what type of hardware they are dealing with.

In conclusion, it is important to note the following steps for full consolidation, and keys to making these changes.

Consolidation steps
1. Begin with hardware consolidation to reduce the overall number of platforms that need to be supported.
2. Next choose a software platform that covers your hardware platforms and allows the same commands to be used regardless of the brand of storage hardware.
3. Integrate process standards into the existing operations environment.

Key points
1. Consolidation is about more than reducing space, CPU and storage.
2. Software consolidation is available in a variety of packages, know the key differences and choose the one that is right for your company.
3. Process consolidation is the true goal. A more streamlined operations process will yield bottom-line results.

In upcoming columns, I will discuss other aspects of the storage network management simplification process. These include operations/roles and reducing time to provision.

About the author: Jim Booth is the managing director of systems engineering at Creekpath Systems, an industry author and founder of the independent storage research group, Hard-Problem, Inc.. Jim also serves as one of's experts on storage management and storage administration-related issues. Ask him a question today or click here to learn more about his background.

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