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Storage – Utilization, efficiency, cost, dedup, TP, virtualization, ZPR, compression or call it Economics

August 3rd, 2010 7 comments

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There are fundamental concepts of storage Economics, which typically include Thin Provisioning, Deduplication, Zero Page Reclaim, Compression, Reclaimation, Efficiency, Utilization, TCO, ROI, CAPEX, OPEX, etc.

Storage Economics is one of those subjects, everyone likes to hear about, but it’s hard to find it implemented in today’s storage environments.

With that said, a lot of vendors are natively trying to add the concepts of Storage Economics into their storage arrays. With some latest discussions we had with our current visit to Hitachi Japan on the topics of Storage Economics and the core concepts that help customer increase utilization & efficiency in storage environments, here is an attempt to shed some more light on the topic.

We use storage to run our business, to store structured and unstructured data. Data means everything these days. But have we thought about the economics associated with storage?

As consumers, we tend to consume more than necessary at times if we want to have enough buffer, or if we anticipate projected growth, business requirements, customer requirements, technology improvements, and the list goes on. Many vendors these days guarantee 20% more efficiency, 50% less storage, 50% less storage using Thin, etc, etc, etc.

There are several aspects one should consider related to Storage Economics, how your shrinking IT budgets can still meet up with your growing business requirements, and what you can do to keep a balance between both.

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With various aspects of Storage Economics below, some may be applicable in the SMB space, some in the enterprise space, and some really at all levels. These may turn into the building blocks of your Storage Economics practice:

  • It’s important to know what storage you have and where you have it.
  • Try to move away from fat provisioning to thin provisioning.
  • Use the concepts of Storage Virtualization to increase efficiency and utilization
  • Run non-vendor specific SRM (Storage Resource Management) tools for storage optimization and storage management.
  • Having a storage management tool is a must. You can still perform your daily task using various native element managers.
  • Industry standard average storage utilization numbers range between 35 to 45%. If you can push your storage utilization numbers higher, it will help you drive the cost down phenomenally.
  • Implement deduplication; verify your storage array supports deduplication natively. If not, it should be implemented in various parts of your storage like backup, unstructured data, etc.
  • Run a heterogeneous environment with multiple vendors in it to keep balance relating to price structures.
  • Though ILM is a forgotten word these days, make sure you run tiering within your storage environment that can help you move your data from higher SLA tiers to lower SLA tiers for cost containment purposes.
  • Implement storage arrays that natively support Automated Storage Tiering and can automate the movement of data to the required Tiers based on time of the day, policies, spike in usage or business requirements.
  • If there are native compression technologies available on the Storage Arrays for secondary or backup storage, implement those as a means to reduce your footprint.
  • Look at extending the life of your storage arrays from a typical 3 years to 6 or 7 years.
  • Leverage the use of outsourced computing models including Cloud technologies available in the market today. Could be private clouds or public clouds or a mesh of both technologies to reduce the storage footprint and management.
  • Budget for your storage requirements and try to live by those even if you have to take drastic measures to keep it under control.
  • Try to gain more operational efficiencies within the storage environments.
  • Understand the TCO with any new storage purchase, as cost of new storage could include several aspects of implementation including migration, consulting, downtime, missed SLA’s, Training, management, etc.
  • Try to reclaim storage as old host systems / server systems are retired or migrated.
  • Check for inconsistencies in your Storage environment as those could result in missed SLA’s, downtime and penalties.
  • Do not over provision and do not over budget. Its just storage, if you need more you can buy more, but having idle storage doing nothing for years in anticipation of future growth will heavily skew operational storage efficiencies.
  • Do not create unnecessary storage management tasks and processes for your storage environment.
  • Having backups and good working backups is very important, but do not tie down your storage with numerous copies of snaps, clones, mirrors, BCV’s, etc for a rainy day, rather have a DR plan and copy single instance of data remotely for DR purposes.
  • Plot trends for your storage environment. See if trends can help you budget, forecast and provision your storage accurately.
  • Remember the larger storage footprint you have, the larger your backup footprints will be, causing more storage space, more backup time windows, more network traffic, slower response times, more tapes, more offsite backups, more backup management cost and possibly more licensing cost.
  • Get away from managing islands of storage; rather move to a more centralized storage management, long-term effects are amazing.
  • Try to reduce licensing cost around storage software. The less storage you deploy, the less licensing per TB cost that you will pay.

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There are many other factors you can implement; here are a few different posts from the past talking about this topic.

http://storagenerve.com/deepdive/storage-optimization/

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A Google search on Storage Economics yields

http://www.google.com/search?q=storage+economics&btnG=Search&hl=en&sa=2

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There are numerous areas of storage management that customers can try to bring in efficiencies that will help them better manage storage, reduce footprint, and reduce CAPEX and OPEX. It starts as a small practice within organizations and the value it creates grips the rest of the IT management teams.

In large organizations, there are Storage Architecture teams, Deployment teams, Provisioning teams and Operational Support teams, but seldom do we see a Storage Economics Team that helps drive utilization and efficiency through best economic practices within storage environments.

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So take this opportunity and plant the seeds for your Storage Economics practice now.

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Cheers
@storagenerve

Japan, a country of cultures and so seems Hitachi

July 29th, 2010 3 comments

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We were invited to go to Japan last week to attend Hitachi’s uValue convention in Tokyo for 4 days.

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The Japanese culture is different, very different, but very interesting. No handshakes, you have to bow to people, respected people are called with –San or –Sama after their last names, delicacy food, hot & humid weather, the workplace pride, the dedication to their job, a very hardworking society, very modest, humble and honestly one of the best hosts, these were just some observations.

Things are different, very different…………..…and in middle of that you got a company called HDS, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi Japan that is located in the US. All HDS executives are from the US, while practically everyone on Hitachi’s Executive team is from Japan.

Does it mean, A clash of cultures? Absolutely not……. we rather felt the other way around. The new Executive team within HDS is establishing great relations with their counterparts in Hitachi Japan, enabling a lot of HDS decisions being made locally.

Hitachi CEO, Nakanishi-San went through an hour of speech to the attendees at the uValue convention, there were 50K attendees, out of which 10K were at his speech. He went through the last 100 years of Hitachi innovation and set the stage for the next 10 years of focus.

Hitachi is truly a part of the Japanese culture, as you land at Narita Airport in Tokyo and go through escalators and elevators, you will notice the Hitachi brand. From making the first battery in Japan to making fans, turbines, refrigerators, trains, televisions, they made it all and they still make it all. Talk about IT floors in datacenters, Hitachi is always found in form of Symphony Servers or USPV Storage or Hitachi networking. Every major place you walk into, you will atleast see a thing or two made by Hitachi.

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First Hitachi Product Ever

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A Battery

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A Turbine?

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FAN

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Telegraph

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Disk Drive

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So far I thought Hitachi Japan made great storage technology and its US wing HDS marketed it. But after seeing the interaction last week, my opinions about the whole relationship between Hitachi Japan and HDS have now changed. HDS seems to help Hitachi Japan with a lot of strategic direction in terms of products and services.

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Some More details

Both Hitachi and HDS have been great hosts to the bloggers and the analyst invited to this event. All the way from making sure the logistics of the trip including flights, food, travel, events and local trips were very well organized.

Attendees included (Bloggers): (FRONT – Left to Right) Myself, Robin Harris, Nigel Poulton, (BACK – Left to Right) Chris Evans, Greg Knieriemen, Rick Vanover.

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Some activities included

Sunday – Monday: Flying for the better part of the day and losing another 13 hours going there….. pretty much left with only Monday evening for dinner with HDS folks.

Tuesday: Visited Hitachi RSD facilities in Odawara (a suburb of Tokyo). Took the Bullet Train to cover this 70 mile trip, in about 15/20 mins. This train was amazing, the top speed varies upto 200 miles/hour.

The Bullet Train, made by Hitachi

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Spend the entire day talking about some NDA stuff. It was very interesting, very interesting guys that work on these sophisticated projects. Went out to dinner with Hitachi executives that night and enjoyed some of the finest food in the world with a 7 course dinner and 6 different wines and sake.

Wednesday: Spend pretty much half a day talking to HDS about some strategy, some really creative discussions about technology and marketing.

Spend the rest of the day in Akihabara, which is the electronics district of Tokyo. Imagine a geek store, here there were hundred’s of them, from small shops to mega stores selling just electronic items.

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Nigel Poulton

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Rick Vanover, Chris Evans

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Met up with some other HDS folks (Professional Services and Managed Services) that evening who were visiting Hitachi Japan from the US. It was great to connect with them.

Thursday: Early morning left for the #uValue convention. Great Place, you can catch some of those pictures on the Facebook page, here.

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Hearing the CEO of Hitachi and then Iwata-San in a private meeting with the Press, Bloggers and Analyst, topics were around Hitachi’s strategy about IT and Telecommunications. Attended the Michael Hay session on Hitachi Research Strategy and then headed out for dinner. It was absolutely impressive to see the Convention floor with Hitachi Technologies and then hear about some of the strategy behind it.

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Hitachi CEO - Nakanishi-San

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Hitachi Executive for IT, Telecommunications, Iwata-San

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Hitachi Robot at uValue Convention: EMIEW from storagenerve on Vimeo.

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Then was dinner that night in Roppongi, a suburb of Tokyo (it’s the night life district of Tokyo). Had a great time with Hitachi executives from Communication and Engineering both joining with us for dinner.

Then we were given a tour of the 10th tallest building in Japan called the Roppongi Hills, at the 52nd floor lobby overlooking Tokyo. We had a great time there. After a long and tiring day, sit at the 52nd floor overlooking Tokyo and having a glass of beer, a great feeling.

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The Gang: Bloggers and Hitachi (Meade-San from HDS Japan and Cecilia Fok from HDS Hong Kong)

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Another interesting fact: The Dinner table every night had a sitting scheme, where every person was assigned a chair/seat and that created a nice mix of environments where on each table there would be a blogger, analyst, HDS and Hitachi person. Quite enjoyable to hear different perspective of things.

Friday: It was the day we were all leaving. Finished up some early AM shopping and headed to the airport for a long 24 hour bus, plane, train, plane and car journey back home via Houston.

Uneventful trip back home….

I will end with this; the Japanese know how to take care of their guest. Culturally Japan seems to be a very strong country, Hitachi is a large part of that culture. Syyonara for now….

Thanks Hitachi and HDS for inviting and making us feel part of the family..

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Cheers
@storagenerve

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Disclaimer: The 4 day trip to Hitachi Japan to attend the uValue Convention is sponsored by HDS. They paid for all travel, boarding and lodging expenses for these days. The attendees / bloggers are not required to Blog about this event. This is my attempt to share what we learned there.

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) Bloggers Day: Session 1 (live blogging)

June 15th, 2010 No comments

This is an attempt to live blog at the Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) Bloggers Day.

Session 1

8:00: Hitachi Welcome

Pete Gerr, Director Strategic and Solutions Marketing

8:25: Hitachi’s Global Presence, Europe, Americas, Asia, Japan, many other countries.

8:26: More than 1000 Companies Globally, 400,000 employees globally, 100Billion in Revenue

8:30: Introductions

8:31: Nigel introduces himself as “I am Nigel Poulton” and pauses for a few secs… a chuckle in the room…the troublemaker

8:32: Rick Vanover, Chris Evans, Devang Panchigar, Nigel Poulton, Simon Long, Bas Raayman, Greg Knieriemen, Phil, Paul Miller, Elias Klnaser

8:33: Michael, Hu, Pete, Claus, Harry, Carli and many more from the Hitachi Team

8:34: HDS is part of a larger organization Hitachi

8:35: Retelling the HDS Storage

8:40: Data drives our world and information is the new currency

8:42: Unified Management, Common Platform, Virtualized Infrastructure irrelevant of structured, unstructured data.

Claus Mikklesen, Chief Scientist

8:45: Claus shows a picture of the first hard drive from 1956, 24 platters, 2100 pounds

8:50: Nigel kicks off a nice discussion on Software platforms within HDS, VP of Software platforms jumps in, Pete and Michael talks about software platforms

Harry ZImmer, Senior Director, Global Competitive Marketing

Mandy Perera, Senior Competitive Market Analyst

8:55: Competitive discussion kickoff

9:00: Hot Topic: Dynamic/Auto Tiering of Storage, top on the list

9:01: Hot Topic: Cloud Evolution: Customer adoption, Private-Hybrid-Public Clouds, second on the list

9:02: Hot Topic: Simplified/Comprehensive Storage Mgmt, third on the list

9:06: Thin provisioning was a request that was submitted and HDS managed to deliver on it through this new process

9:08: Harry Zimmer works at HDS, but before that worked for EMC and IBM.

9:20: Elias has deployed Hitachi Blades and loves it. Has some vmware integration issues with loading drives etc.

9:31: We have been storage virtualization for years when compared to Vplex

9:32: Lets find out implementation and application needs for long distance storage virtualization and see if there are existing products within HDS that might be able to accomplish it.

9:34: Containers, POD’s, Racks and End to End Stacks: Biz Dev Wars, was on top of the list but has now fallen to 15 now. This is a comparison to vBlocks. The question is how successful is EMC is in this strategy.

Disclaimer: Though we are not required, it is up to the attendees to blog and tweet about this event if they wish to. Our travel, boarding and lodging expenses for two days will be paid by Hitachi Data Systems (HDS).

Storage optimization, a pipe dream

March 25th, 2010 3 comments

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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…

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  • 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….