By Drew Robb
A recent survey by SANpulse Technologies queried more than 100 large enterprises about their top priorities for IT, with a focus on storage, over the next year. The #1 priority was technology refreshes, including SAN storage and server refreshes, which was cited by 51% of the survey respondents.
“This is in line with trends in the industry and with what we’ve seen in the field as companies that have held off on technology purchases for the past few years are now upgrading or planning migrations to new platforms,” says Joy Burd, vice president of marketing communications at SANpulse, which specializes in SAN migration software and services.
About 42% of the respondents cited data center consolidation as a primary goal; 34.5% plan to migrate to private or public cloud computing; and 32.7% are moving to virtualized SANs.
SAN optimization/re-tiering and diversification of storage hardware were the next highest priorities, cited by 26.5% and 21%, respectively, of the respondents.
“We've seen strong demand for migration to new storage platforms, as well as consolidation to virtualized storage environments,” says Burd. “Depending on the industry and business, some organizations are making strides while others are still struggling in uncertain economic conditions.”
Regardless of whether IT organizations expand, upgrade or consolidate, one activity will accompany the process: the migration of data from the previous storage environment to the new environment. While common, it can beone of the most stressful IT activites because of the risk involved during the transition. Data migration can be a costly and time-consuming operation that takes key staff away from strategic operations.
But the IT and financial sides of the business are not always in synch these days. While storage professionals, for example, may be hot to trot on new projects, prying open the purse strings is not easy in today’s economic climate.
“For storage professionals engaged in a technology refresh or consolidation initiative, you would expect the urgency of these operations to place high priority on the processing of POs because timing is critical and part of the planning process of migrations,” says Burd. “However, we’ve seen that typical PO processing for most IT initiatives in this area can take from one to three months.”
The SANpulse survey also delved into other challenges faced by storage administrators: 39% said that multi-departmental coordination was a top concern, while about 35% said that server remediation, SAN configuration errors, and asset discovery posed problems.
Burd also points to survey results that show users’ concerns regarding timeliness and budget overspending on SAN migrations. For example, 41.5% of the respondents said that less than 20% of of their SAN migrations were completed on time and on budget, while 62% said that 40% or fewer migrations were completed on time and within budget. And 79% have had less than 60% of their migrations meet budgetary/time requirements.
“Migrations are notorious for being a manually intensive and complex process that is subject to errors as spreadsheets are created, maintained and changed,” says Burd. Because organizations are not static, discovery and mapping of information takes place while it is active and subject to change. For this reason, migrations are one of the riskier operations in storage.
Marc Staimer, an analyst with Dragon Slayer Consulting, says that there can be as many as 43 steps in a typical SAN migration. Not all of the steps can be automated, but as time progresses more and more are added to the list of automated functions. But regardless of how much of the migration is automated, the human factor always has to be accounted for.
“It becomes quickly evident that there are limitless opportunities for human error,” says Staimer. “The likelihood of a mistake, misstep, misunderstanding, incomplete step or error is nearly 100%.”
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology/engineering, and is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).