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Storage optimization, a pipe dream


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Posts like these make me think how easy is it for people to make claims for something that they have no idea about. What I mean “something” is “storage in a customers environment”. Practically these are some very easy means to make money in the storage industry today. “Life is good” one walks into a customer without knowing their environment, applications, users, databases and blindly tell them that we can help you reclaim 70% of all your storage. Let us evaluate your environment, have our engineers come in perform a storage assessment, be resident here for a while, bill for the work to reclaim and redeploy the storage and yea help you buy the brand of storage we prefer for our customers.

We all know how optimized, well managed and efficient our storage environments are and why are they architected they way they are in your organization. If customers run a 60% utilized environment it means 40% of the storage is un-utilized but not necessarily reclaimable and re-deployable.

Picture Source: UPENN.EDU

The issues

Largely storage environments are heavily dependant upon the architecture, IOPS requirements, databases, vm’s, applications and many other variable factors that drive its performance.

Storage architectures in an organization typically encompass provision for growth of the existing file systems, databases and future requirements.

In between this growth, resource allocation, resource shifts and retirement of older host systems, there are usually holes that get created, which makes certain portions of this storage orphaned or reclaimable.

Storage Archiving to cheaper disk and tape is not always a practice in organizations, which can lead to off loading some of the structured and unstructured data from these systems.

Storage groups typically have a high turnover rate of employees, which creates a hole as someone new is being introduced to the environment and may need a ramp up time to understand the environment, applications and user needs.

Storage groups at time do not have written policies, procedures and guidelines on what and how the storage should be reclaimed for future use. Typically a lack of data management practices are also seen with related to moving the data to cheaper storage based on policies and lifecycle management.
Application, database and performance requirements are consistently growing, which makes purchasing new storage inevitable for newer applications. While the old apps and databases are still running, cost of migrating from the old systems to new ones cause additional budgeting issues.

There is a misconception that storage reclaimation is easy to achieve. 70% of your storage can be reclaimed and redeployed today.

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Storage Management

Lack of defined processes, procedures, oversight, change control management, application needs, database demands, etc add more complexity to storage management environments making reclaimation a much harder task.

Lack of implementation of SRM (Storage Resource Management) tools in the environments adds another layer of complexity with storage management. Storage admins and managers typically true up monthly reports related to storage environments on excel spreadsheets.

Implementation of native features within storage should absolutely be considered before purchasing and deploying any new storage. Features like data deduplication, thin provisioning, automated tiering, zero page reclaim, vmware aware storage (api’s) and use of automated ILM policies.

Define, Define, Define……..all your process, procedures, exceptions….etc..

Yea and want to throw this out too…  Personally ran into one organization so far, where the storage manager was compensated (bonuses) based on the total reclaimed storage per year.

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Political issues

The steepest battle with any storage optimization project is internal political issues within the organization.

Working at multiple levels either the C level or IT management level imposes additional challenges…

At times the management is possibly open to ideas around storage optimization exercises to reclaim the so-called 70% of all the reclaimable storage. But as this idea flows down to the local storage teams, its either killed or delayed because of political issues.

Going from the storage teams upwards causes similar issue with application teams, database teams, architects and then the money spenders or the C level executives.

“Did one think it was easy, when they walked in…”

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The after effects

What are some of the effects of reclaiming 70% of storage in an organization…just a few I can highlight here.

  • Large changes will be implemented in organizations at a Storage management level along with replacing key executives that made a decision to purchase all this storage..
  • For many years to come that organization will not purchase storage, essentially use the existing “old” storage they have sitting on the floor.
  • New Applications may still end up using older storage platforms creating storage management & performance issues.
  • Customer may not be able to use latest technologies like Automated Tiering, Deduplication, Thin Provisioning, Zero Page reclaim, Power down disk, energy efficiency and many more.
  • The larger problem it creates is the use of the storage on the floor for more than 3 / 5 years, where they start paying for hefty hardware and software maintenance charges beyond warranty.
  • The company, the person that sold you storage assessment, storage reclaimation and storage redeployment will be in there to pitch you new storage products from a XYZ company…

And

  • If every customer in the world reclaims about 70% of all the storage, I will leave the question upto you as to what will happen to the storage industry…. let the critics answer it…

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The Journey

So anyone that comes and tells you that we will do a Storage Optimization for you today, have the results tomorrow and reclaim 70% of all your storage,………….….its nothing more than the “title of this post”.

As I like to call it, “It’s a Journey” to make your storage environment fully efficient, optimized and “beat the sh*t out of it”…..

It’s the process where the customer needs to be educated at every level within the organization by helping them create a “storage economics” practice that would enable them to achieve the right results..

Again its about establishing practices, policies, procedures, guidelines, tools, showing the importance at all levels and the biggest creating the awareness about it…

The shortest 5 rules to begin this journey….

  • Storage rule 1#: Buy what you need, use what you buy
  • Storage rule 2#: Define and follow your practices, policies and procedures.
  • Storage rule 3#: Establish an on going storage economics practice in your organization
  • Storage rule 4#: Use robust SRM tools to manage your storage environment.
  • Storage rule 5#: Centralize storage management, resource, infrastructure

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It’s a journey….or it turns into a pipe dream….

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  • http://www.storagerap.com 3parfarley

    Hi Devang, Jon Toigo, the author of the post you linked to, generally has had little understanding of what is going on in customer implementations, but makes himself entertaining to readers by offering contrarian perspectives that appeal to people's distrust of the establishment. This is the same person who for many years made ludicrous arguments about the validity of Fibre Channel as a network, but he has also been very vocal about the hidden costs of SANs – something that is not completely off base. More recently, he has argued that system virtualization was a dangerous thing that people should avoid using because there are too many ambiguities about how data can be protected adequately. History has borne out that his paranoid conclusions about storage technology are mostly unfounded, but not entirely wrong either. Many in the community find him frustrating but I think he provides some value, much the same as the town drunk, who has moments of lucidity in an otherwise non-sensical stream of rants.

    Try not to let his writings bother you too much. You can count on him to over react to just about everything, which can be a lot of fun if you have the stomach for it.

  • chrismevans

    Devang

    I have a couple of thoughts; firstly any reclaim is typically a “one off” exercise which gets stuff back at the time of analysis. If processes have been corrected, then this shouldn't need to be done again. Storage growth is anything from 50-100% per annum, depending to who you listen to.

    Take these two thoughts together, surely a cleanup exercise will result in nothing more than a blip of utilisation? Also it's unlikely that all unutilised resources could be reclaimed in a single piece of work.

    I agree with you that making a glib 70% claim isn't helpful. However it's less headline grabbing to make a statement like “most customers can reduce their storage usage by 10% year on year”.

    Yes there is a lot of wastage out there. Like everything, some poeple will and can reclaim their 70% – most can't or won't for many of the reasons you identify.

  • Brian

    “Storage rule 4#: Use robust SRM tools to manage your storage environment.”

    I totally agree with this… but… the challenge is finding the right tools/software, especially when you have an environment with multiple vendors. It's very hard to find 3rd party software which provides even simple cross platform reporting features.

    Thinking about this… I would love to see a post reviewing the “Top 10” SRM tools / software.

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