Convincing Management to Buy Storage

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You have an urgently needed storage project and all you need is management approval. You put together a presentation so good that it could persuade a New Yorker that Los Angeles is a much better city. You are ready to implement. And management nixes the whole thing till next year, or worse, shows no interest at all — a common scenario in this age of tighter purse strings.

Denver Health, for example, plans to add a redundant disaster recovery facility so it can duplicate its various configurations at a separate campus location. It will utilize snapshot, remote IP copy and asynchronous replication to accomplish this. But such a project takes funds, and that runs into some harsh realities.

“We’ve had to postpone our plans for a redundant DR site until next year,” says Jeff Pelot, CTO of Denver Health.

Let’s take a look at the problem, as well as some ways to improve your changes of management approval for your storage purchases.

Alligator Bite

Certainly, there is a case to be made for the old saying that people only prepare for disaster after it strikes.

“We tend to be event-driven people,” says Mike Karp, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates. “Unless we get bit in the ass by an alligator, we don’t really see the necessity of draining the swamp.”

That said, between 9/11, the 2003 Northeast blackout and the various leaks of customer information from the likes of Bank of America and CheckPoint, disaster is enough in the news to prevent anyone from forgetting about the alligator entirely. In counterpoint to this, however, is the IT pricing and spending landscape. Over the past decade or so, management has gotten comfortable with the idea that capacity increases exponentially while prices steadily plummet.

“There are two big barriers we face in storage acquisitions,” says Doug Busch, CIO of Intel. “Capacity will continue to increase, and the willingness to pay for storage will continue to decline.”

So what can be done about it? Dan Backer, enterprise systems manager at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, says he used the example of half a million dollars in online ticket sales in half a day for one performance to emphasize to management the important of additional storage and DR resources to eliminate downtime. That helped put the price tag for new technology in perspective.

“This helped the CIO and CEO to understand the importance of additional storage,” says Backer.

When the organization migrated to an EMC CX6000-based SAN, they focused on training to ensure the small IT shop knew exactly how to deal with the new environment, and they tested thoroughly to ensure a smooth launch with no hiccups. After all, says Backer, such a purpose for a smaller outfit could well be a one-shot opportunity, so you don’t want to waste it. Extra time invested to streamline the deployment could make the difference between the next PO being on the fast track versus minimal funds from here on out.

“Once the project is implemented, it is vital to validate the CIO decision to go ahead by giving him the good news about higher online sales, as well as any other good news related to the acquisition,” says Backer. “It is important to let him see he made the right move.”

One-Hour Experts

Many IT managers make the mistake of trying to educate management on the fine points of technology in a one-hour, make-or-break meeting. Big error. There you are, attempting to explain the fine points of LUNs, HBA, and FC vs. IP SANs to someone who quite possibly is still coming to terms with e-mail communication. If it took you several years to reach your current level of knowledge, what makes you think you can shortcut that to one hour in a tense conference room setting?

Another principle in budget approvals, therefore, is to keep it simple.

“Approach your senior management in ways, terms and vocabulary that they can understand,” says Guy Charron, assistant director of Statistics Canada’s Informatics Technology Services Division. “Avoid techno-babble at all costs and focus instead on the bottom line.”

When Stat Can was planning a massive consolidation initiative across its entire storage infrastructure, it calculated the math down to the cent for every server, service and component on its coast-to-coast network. This involved endless spreadsheets. But Charron was smart enough to know that dumping this level of detail on top management was a sure-fire route to budget disapproval.

So what did Charron do?

He boiled all the numbers down to a couple of bottom-line figures — how much to maintain the status quo versus how much for IT consolidation. This was further broken down with totals for the next four years. And in big letters at the bottom it said: $2.9 million in savings in four years. Result: a rapid approval. Project roll out is now ongoing and management’s wisdom has been proved out by immediate savings.

“Our annual investments in servers and storage are already more manageable,” says Charron.

Article courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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