A model for storage management life cycle

The goal is to standardize, centralize, and simplify the management of increasingly complex storage environments.

By Gary Didio

A methodical approach to ensuring that storage solutions continuously support business requirements has become essential at many IT organizations. This article presents a storage management life-cycle model that encompasses the various phases associated with a total storage solution: demand planning, provisioning, operations and maintenance, and "customer care." Each of these phases comprises discrete activities and tasks with associated operating procedures and service level agreements that can be implemented by IT storage organizations.

In addition to the increased volume of information that administrators have to manage, users are expecting more—faster response times, more-comprehensive queries on larger and larger data sets, more security, increased availability, and customization for specific needs. To support these increased volumes and user demands, storage infrastructures are becoming more complex:

  • Storage arrays, storage area networks (SANs), and network-attached storage (NAS) are being used to facilitate the sharing of information;
  • Dedicated applications are being created to allow for administration and management of entire storage infrastructures; and
  • Global architectures are being devised that facilitate information sharing across vast distances and time zones.

The storage management life cycle

How do you deal with this complexity without sacrificing support to your customers and users? Using a life-cycle approach for managing the storage infrastructure will enable you to continuously evolve the infrastructure despite increased demands and complexity. Moreover, you will be able to manage storage as a business, providing a high degree of services to your customers and end users.

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A storage management life cycle establishes processes and procedures to standardize, centralize, and simplify your storage environment. It can be composed of four phases (see figure) that allow for better control of both new and ongoing investments in storage hardware, software, and associated administration.

Inefficiencies can result from focusing on technology alone. A storage management life cycle enables an organization to practice three principles of effective management: standardization, centralization, and simplification. Efficiently managed and centralized storage can initially require a large investment in technology. However, a storage management life cycle can be validated by industry trends that demonstrate that the total cost of ownership will decline with

  • More-effective utilization of storage assets;
  • Standardized and efficient administration, resulting in fewer personnel; and
  • Less storage downtime with higher availability due to centralized management.

Demand planning

The demand planning phase allows a set of storage requirements to be developed based on current and historical usage statistics coupled with future technology and business projections. Analysis of both technology and business requirements is needed to generate a demand planning strategy that will deliver measurable results. These metrics and requirements can be developed through a combination of activities (see table).

The primary objective of demand planning is to develop a comprehensive Storage Requirements Plan that

  • Uses resources efficiently;
  • Provides for managed growth of the environment;
  • Supports service level requirements such as availability and performance;
  • Supports performance objectives; and
  • Protects data from loss or misuse.

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Based on the storage requirements plan developed during the demand planning phase, storage allocation activities can be undertaken to make sure the identified storage requirements are met (see table on p. 39). This may consist of allocating existing storage capabilities, or implementing a completely new storage architecture that includes the specification, procurement, deployment, and integration of new storage devices.

The primary objective of provisioning is to ensure proper alignment of storage capabilities with IT requirements.

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Operations and maintenance

Phase 3 of the life cycle centers on managing the storage environment in accordance with an operations calendar. The key activities in this phase are usage reporting, data mining, and fault detection and correction. Many of the activities in this phase are reactive and rely heavily on documented standard operating procedures (SOPs) and storage policies developed during demand planning.

The primary objective of operations and maintenance is a properly running storage environment that supports the SLAs.

Customer care

Phase 4 of the storage management life cycle focuses on meeting end-user and customer expectations. The activities in this phase are normally associated with a help desk that uses escalation procedures linked to SLAs. The activities associated with this phase are primarily reactive. For example, a manual reporting process invoices users based on their usage of the storage infrastructure. This "chargeback" process would be measured against metrics laid out in the SLA. The more mature an organization becomes in using the life cycle, the less reactive and more proactive daily activities will become.

Now that you have a fully functioning storage management life cycle, how do you make sure it continuously fulfills your needs? Periodically you should perform solution maintenance that involves an abbreviated discovery process to determine the current maturity of the implemented storage management life cycle.

For more information on how to implement and measure the effectiveness of a storage management life cycle, visit www.glasshouse.com.

Gary Didio is a senior consultant with GlassHouse Technologies in Framingham, MA.

This article was originally published on June 01, 2003