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ILM, Simpler Architecture Hold Promise

Trautwein believes that companies that manage large amounts of storage can reduce the effort required by utilizing tiered storage and emerging software technologies that allow for the automatic movement of data to lower-cost "near-on-line storage" arrays, and ultimately, off to tape.

Martin believes that as storage management technology and software become easier to use and the functionality becomes more robust, dedicated storage teams won't be needed to implement automated storage management practices.

Trautwein agrees, and says he believes that implementation of automated storage management practices no longer requires a dedicated storage team. "However, it does require expertise in the storage technology being implemented and the allocation of project time to successfully implement the solution," he says.

There are those who believe that a dedicated storage team is needed to implement automated storage management practices. Scott, for one, disagrees with that assertion; an easier architecture is what's needed, he says.

"Utility storage deployments incorporate many automated storage management features as a way of alleviating ongoing storage management and the need for storage expertise," says Scott. "A true utility storage deployment should not require a dedicated storage team. In fact, it may not even require a dedicated storage expert."

As an example, he points to 3PAR customer MySpace.com. The utility storage arrays at MySpace support all dynamic content for all services offered by the online community (profiles, mail, forums, blogs, events, classifieds, etc.), amounting to almost a petabyte of storage. And yet all of this storage is managed by just two DBAs spending one-quarter of their time administering the storage systems.

Scott says these DBAs are not storage experts, and the time they spend managing the utility arrays also includes tasks related to data recovery, including taking multiple snapshots each day. Scott says this is possible simply because the data recovery solution at MySpace features built-in automation and therefore does not require a major time or resource investment to implement or manage.

Scott says enterprises need to choose storage technology that is designed specifically for utility services. "This means carefully considering the solutions available and choosing the one that helps them deliver great service responsiveness while simultaneously cutting the TCO — or achieving more with less," he says.

Scott says the solution must be simple to manage, must improve storage capacity utilization and must be easy to scale. He says the mistake many organizations make is that they attempt to use traditional or legacy storage products as the foundation for a new utility storage environment, which can create major problems.

In practice, says Martin, storage utilities are enabled by a combination of equipment, software and onsite staff for a price per unit consumed per time period.

There are only a few true storage utility environments, Martin says, but there are steps that companies can take to reduce the major challenges, including: increasing storage management monitoring and metering capabilities that enable organizations to better track and manage usage; implementing a service catalog to enhance alignment of storage infrastructure to business requirements; and having a chargeback model — it is important to be able to track storage usage to specific users and then have the ability to charge that user for that usage.

Dedicated storage teams may be here to stay, but there are those who believe that dedicated storage teams are a luxury many companies can't afford. Fortunately for them, the list of alternatives appears to be growing.

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