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Top 10 tips on storage management

Jamie Gruener offers his top 10 pieces of advice for storage managers.

What you will learn from this tip: An industry veteran's top 10 pieces of advice for storage managers and administrators.

This is my last column for as an industry analyst. Next month, I will shift to a new role at a large system vendor's storage software division, and as such, I will no longer have an impartial opinion about various vendors' political agendas. Thanks to all of you who have written me over the last couple of years to question my sanity or tell me I was spot-on. I appreciated your brutal honesty, and I hope I've given you something to think about as you make those storage management buying decisions in a turbulent time.

After conferring with editors at, I decided it would be best to finish up my column by providing you with some tips I have picked up from watching the storage market over the last few years. You can take them or leave them, and I do apologize up front for being obvious in a few cases.

  1. Always have a backup plan to any new storage software deployment. You can take this in one of two ways: Make sure any data is backed up before rolling out a new management tool, or have a fall-back plan with a second vendor in case your first selection for a storage management tool doesn't work out as planned.
  2. Always ask for a trial deployment if you are investing a significant portion of your storage budget on new storage software. There's nothing like seeing a new storage management tool in your own environment. The test drive will give your team the ability to see how long it takes to install, how easy it is to use, and how well it works with the rest of the environment.
  3. Don't trust vendors' interoperability statements until you've seen them working together in action. This should be obvious, but interoperability is still the wild west in a lot of ways. Thankfully, this is changing very quickly thanks to SMI-S from SNIA, which has started to certify vendors.
  4. Make sure you know the true cost of the storage software you are buying. "True cost" includes maintenance, deployment and ongoing labor costs
  5. Despite the value of new generations of technologies from startups, proceed with caution when considering these tools. I know there are a lot of startups that will be happy to see me leave the analyst profession, because I've always asked first where companies' customers are before considering the technology. Customers are the best litmus test for proven technologies.
  6. Take vendor marketing with a grain of salt, and focus on what is available today. ILM is interesting, but keep vendors focused on what they offer today in any discussions.
  7. Don't wait another year to start piloting a storage utility. Every customer who has done a pilot has seen measured success. Seriously, what are you waiting for?
  8. Focus on the basics before getting fancy. Make sure you understand capacity and know for sure that your backups complete before you try to set up a data retention strategy or tier your storage.
  9. Change is good; embrace it where possible to improve your storage operations. Automation improves the quality of your life, maintains your sanity and increases your family time. Life is too short.
  10. Take all opinions, regardless of source, for what they are. Our experience colors our opinions, even and especially analysts. Always understand the source as a data point, not a deal maker. So long and happy trails to you, and may our paths cross at upcoming storage events or in your own data centers. Peace out.
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About the author: Jamie Gruener will continue to contribute to in the Bits & Bytes section. He will be joining IBM Tivoli in August.

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