Keeping It Simple: Building a Storage Network Page 2


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MF: Is a storage network possible in a phased program?

BP: In 2003 and beyond, the trend is "Spend to Save." Analysts estimate that for every $1 of capital spent on storage infrastructure, $5 to $10 are spent on supporting that infrastructure. And yet, while you'll be able to add applications and storage this year, you probably will not be able to hire more staff. Through policies, procedures, and process, a storage network will help bring in savings.

MF: Could you define policies, procedures, and process for me?

BP: IT operates between users and the technology to make sure the technology serves the needs of the users as they meet their business goals. IT uses policies, procedures, and process to perform its services. Policies state how IT will govern users. Service level agreements (SLA) state how IT will be accountable to users. Process defines how IT will work in a repeatable fashion across technologies. And procedures are training made site specific. Standardized, documented processes and procedures are key to successful SLAs. Emerging policy engines use storage management standards for better defined retention and archiving, as well as more manageable infrastructures.

MF: While I try to "keep it simple," and since labor costs to manage storage are rising, would it be simpler and cheaper to run a storage network that includes just one type of storage -- all disk, for example?

BP: If you compare the dollars it would cost to lose data to the dollars it costs to store the data, you'll probably want to phase in different types of storage. Optimization of assets ensures the most expensive storage is reserved for the data that is the most important to the business success and survival, while less important data migrates to less expensive storage. This ties directly to your understanding of the business needs and the phases you established early in your IT project evaluation. Storage networks also enable savings. With shared tape drives, you don't have to buy a tape drive with every server, and you can use your tape drives 12 hours per night instead of 4 or 5. And with a shared pool of spare storage, you don't need to allocate spare storage to every server or application. Instead, you can distribute the spare storage where it's needed.

MF: If I settle on a good backup and restore product, do I also need disaster recovery?

BP: The business driver, which you identified at the start of your program, provides a clear answer to this question. Each data protection method has a different purpose. Backup and restore provide data integrity; disaster recovery takes care of site failure. There are other data protection methods also, such as clustering, which provides high availability. Employ one or multiple data protection approaches according to your business needs tied to your phased approach.

MF: I know I'll have to keep my old installation running side-by-side with my new one for a while before I cut over to the new setup. And I'll have to do this for each phase. What are some other implementation steps I should plan for?

BP: Plan for how to get your data onto your new data storage while you run your side-by-side systems. Available methods include the simple backup tapes, the medium complexity mirrored copy, and the complex specialized data migration and virtualization products. Also remember you'll need a troubleshooting phase. If you monitor for normal and train your staff, they'll be able to do the initial troubleshooting. Also, remember to evaluate your maintenance contracts for consistency before you sign them. It doesn't do much good to have a two hour response on a storage array if you have a four hour response on the fabric devices.

MF: You mentioned one of the benefits of a phased approach is taking advantage of new technology developments. That sounds attractive, but are there things to look out for with my "keep it simple" mantra?

BP: Using new technology is exciting because it can answer some of our pressing business needs. So you don't get burned, carefully establish baseline requirements. Be sure you know what's supported, and be very suspicious of outrageous claims. You'll know them when you hear them. Also build into your request for quote process how to evaluate startups with great new technology as compared to solid, steady old-line technology vendors whose products aren't as cutting edge.

MF: Thanks for talking with us, Bill. I think I see how the process requires study, both of my business and of the industry.

BP: My pleasure, Marty. This is an exciting time for IT.

» See All Articles by Columnist Marty Foltyn of BitSprings Systems

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