Hype vs. reality – A Q&A with Wells Fargo's head of IT

April 24, 2009 -- I recently had an opportunity to have a conversation with Scott Dillon, head of technology infrastructure services at Wells Fargo & Co. The discussion covered a range of topics including the bank's storage priorities and needs, how he plans to extend the life of his legacy gear through storage virtualization, and his take on emerging technologies like solid-state disk (SSD) drives and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).

Like many large enterprise organizations, Wells Fargo is dealing with massive amounts of storage and all of the management, migration and data protection tasks that come with it. Dillon says he has about 5PB of storage deployed in production. Storage infrastructures of that size require a pragmatic management approach. That's why the Wells Fargo IT philosophy is "standardize and optimize," while keeping clear of IT's bleeding edge.

To that end, Dillon's main goals are driving up utilization and enhancing availability and storage virtualization is the linchpin in the process.

"Virtualization is something that we are committed to and we are deploying it across our environment. It helps our cost models because it allows us to have heterogeneous [storage] providers behind virtualization devices. With virtualization, we don't have to throw out one infrastructure to bring in a new one," says Dillon. "We are big on leveraging what we already have."

He says virtualization has helped streamline a number of complex tasks, including capacity provisioning, data migration and storage tiering. He also credits storage virtualization with speeding service delivery to customers.

As for his take on vendors, Dillon would not name his storage suppliers, but he does hint at what Wells Fargo is looking for going forward.

"A lot of the large storage providers are starting to make their play into the end-to-end space. They are putting it all together, which is how we look at the big picture. We would like to see these organizations driving their products toward IEEE standards so that we don't get locked in [to any one vendor]," he says.

Dillon stresses the importance of the customer-provider relationship in his decision-making process. "The quality, availability and resiliency of a product in an industrial enterprise setting are incredibly important to us. I want the vendor engaged and I want the sales team to have as much incentive to deliver on their commitment as they do in selling me their next product. If the product is good and you deliver on your commitment you are going to sell me a lot more stuff," he says.

"What's amazing to me is how many people are just focused on the sale. I need to know they are going to be there for the long term. When times are tough it's about who is going to be there focused on your optimization and driving up utilization," Dillon says.

Dillon is also keeping on eye on several emerging storage technologies.

On SSDs: "There is a lot of initial hype. The value proposition is there. What's intriguing is reduced power consumption. But there are a lot of questions. How many times can you write to the drive? What about availability? I don't see [SSDs] as something we would deploy in production in the near future, but the promise is there and we see it."

On data de-duplication: "We have deployed some data de-duplication technologies in our environment. We are realizing some very good lift in [our de-dupe implementation]. There is a lot of promise, but the technology needs to mature."

On FCoE: "We continue to watch it very closely. We are, in general, very interested in any technology that fits with our pragmatic and customer-centric philosophy. Directionally, I think the concept of unified networking is great."

Once the aforementioned technologies mature, Dillon will weave them into his infrastructure when and if they make business sense.

"It all starts and ends with the customer experience. You can't do technology for the sake of doing technology. It has to improve the customer's experience," he says.

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posted by: Kevin Komiega

Kevin Komiega, Senior Editor
by Kevin Komiega
Senior Editor

Kevin Komiega has been the Senior Editor of InfoStor since 2005. He was previously a senior news writer with SearchStorage.com and held a position as a public relations account executive with Porter Novelli, Boston. Kevin also spent four years running tape backup operations at the University of Rhode Island's Academic Computer Center. He can be contacted at kkomiega@quinstreet.com.

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