Analysts advise forming dedicated storage groups

By Heidi Biggar

In today's economic climate, few IT administrators are getting the nod to make significant IT purchases, and storage is no exception. While the temptation may be to sit back and wait for the economic tide to turn, analysts advise IT organizations to be proactive about their storage plans.

"IT [administrators] now more than ever should be focused internally on getting their houses in order in preparation of the next mad dash," says Ray Paquet, vice president and research director at Gartner Research.

And that may mean implementing a dedicated storage management organization or, if resources or staffing is sparse, outsourcing that function to a third party. The storage management organization is the single most critical component of any storage management solution, says Paquet. "Without one, there is no way to manage storage."

According to Gartner, storage management projects that do not have dedicated staffs will not only be two-thirds less likely, through 2004, to achieve project goals and return-on-investment (ROI) targets, but will also experience at least a 50% increase in storage-related costs.

Why? Because the vast majority of storage management is done as a component of a systems manager's or administrator's everyday job function, in the microcosm of the server, explains Paquet.

Figure 1: About 43% of systems administrators currently have some storage management responsibilities, and they spend about 40% of their time performing those tasks.
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Gartner estimates that 43% of systems administrators currently have some type of storage management responsibilities. These administrators spend about 40% of their time performing these tasks (see Figure 1 on p. 16).

As a result, some IT organizations are migrating from a system administration model to a storage management model (see Figure 2).

By dedicating resources to storage management, Paquet says companies can benefit from "a ripple effect" of advantages that extend beyond the storage organization to peer IT organizations (e.g., systems administration, network management, etc.). Those benefits can include enhanced application availability and performance, easier system administration, lower TCO, greater IT flexibility, improved database administration, better network management, and fewer help desk calls.

But, first and foremost, storage management organizations can help companies control or even lower storage management costs, improve quality of service (e.g., application performance and availability), and help build service-level agreements (SLAs), according to Paquet.

Gartner estimates that the cost of storage management ranges from 40% of storage acquisition costs for stable, homogeneous, consolidated environments to 300% of the cost of storage acquisition for heterogeneous, poorly managed, or highly distributed deployments.

Figure 2: Some IT organizations are migrating to a storage management model for a number of reasons, including increased spending on storage, the advent of shared/pooled storage (SAN and NAS), and the need to address storage capacity management.
Click here to enlarge image


So, who should implement a storage management organization? Any IT organization—especially larger ones—that has built or is considering building a shared storage environment (i.e., storage area network [SAN], network-attached storage [NAS], or both), according to Paquet.

The first step is to identify the roles and responsibilities of the storage management organization and then match people to the processes, explains Paquet. "That doesn't necessarily mean you have to hire new people or make capital expenditures to put the processes in place," he adds.

Paquet says that larger companies may be able to leverage staff from their mainframe operations, where storage management groups are more commonplace, or dedicate some of their systems administration staff, which is already tasked with storage functions, to the new organization.

You then define the organizational characteristics and work on the management processes, ensuring there are good problem-management and change-management processes in place, explains Paquet. "With these established, you're ready to look at storage management tools and services."

According to Paquet, the goal is to develop SLAs that are applicable to storage, have a direct and measurable business impact, and have a charge associated with them. He recommends that companies start with recovery-based SLAs to ensure high levels of availability and then add copy and archiving agreements.

By aligning storage management with business-line objectives (via SLAs), storage management organizations not only lend credibility to current storage projects, but may also go a long way in justifying future investments.

In the next issue, we'll guide you through The Yankee Group's strategic storage plan framework, a five-phase process to help IT managers not only assess their storage environment (past, current, and future), but also tie storage requirements to specific business objectives and establish guidelines and best practices for achieving such goals.

For more information about dedicated storage management groups, see "Managing storage: A plan of attack," p. 40.

This article was originally published on October 01, 2002