Survey Sheds Light on Storage Priorities

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A recent survey by SANpulse Technologies asked more than 100 large enterprises about their storage spending and migration plans. About half of the respondents (51%) said that SAN storage and server refreshes were a top priority for this year. Their choice of vendor and technology, though, is highly influenced by the mean time to migrate. End users want rapid adoption and fast execution.

About 42% of the survey respondents cited data center consolidation as a primary goal; 34.5% plan to move to the cloud; and 32.7% are moving to a virtualized SAN.

“This is in line with trends in the industry and with what we’ve seen in the field as companies that have held off on technology purchases for the past few years are now upgrading or planning a migration to new platforms,” said Joy Burd, vice president of marketing communications at SANpulse.

SAN optimization/re-tiering and diversification of storage hardware were the next highest priorities, cited by 26.5% and 21%, respectively, of the respondents…

“We’ve seen strong demand for migration to new storage platforms, as well as consolidation to virtualized storage environments,” said Burd. “Depending on the industry and business, some organizations are making strides while others are still struggling in uncertain economic conditions.”

Regardless of whether IT professionals expand, upgrade or consolidate, there is an activity that will accompany each action: the migration of corporate data from the previous storage environment to the new one. While common, it is perhaps the most stressful IT activity because of the risk involved during the transitions. Furthermore, it can be a very costly and time-consuming operation that takes key staff away from strategic operations.

But the storage/IT and financial universes are not always in synch. While vendors and storage managers are hot to trot, prying open the purse strings is not easy these days.

“For storage professionals engaged in a technology refresh or consolidation initiatives, you would expect the urgency of these operations to place high priority on the processing of POs as timing is critical and part of the planning process of conducting migrations,” said Burd. “However, we’ve seen that typical PO processing for most IT initiatives in this area take from one to three months.”

These findings are validated by the Enterprise Strategy Group’s 2011 IT Spending Survey, which found that 47% of companies with 500 or more employees will increase spending on networking products and services in 2011. This is about the same percentage as 2010 and up from the recession doldrums of 2009 when 37% of companies planned to increase networking spending. But on the other side of the coin, more than half of companies are spending the same or less this year.

Storage Challenges

The SANpulse survey also delved into the other challenges faced by storage administrators: 39% said that multi-departmental coordination was a top concern, while 35% said that server remediation, SAN configuration errors, asset discovery and multi-departmental coordination were problematic.

“In many cases, it’s a matter of systems not keeping pace with the reality of demanding enterprise environments and how system vendors delivering storage products sometimes overestimate the capabilities of their products in real-world environments,” said Burd. “It also means that vendors need to remain focused on providing enhancements to their software platforms for management, configuration and automation as well as better migration/remediation/sharing of information services through partners.”

Burd points to survey results that showed lack of satisfaction with the timeliness and budget overspending on SAN migrations. For example, 41.5% of the respondents said that less than 20% of migrations were completed on time and on budget, while 62% said that 40% or fewer migrations were completed on time and within budget. And 79% have had less than 60% of their migrations meet their budgetary/time requirements.

“Migrations are notorious for being a manually intensive and complex process that is subject to errors as spreadsheets are created, maintained and changed,” said Burd. Because organizations are not static, discovery and mapping of information takes place while it is active and subject to change. For this reason, migrations are one of the riskier operations in storage.

Marc Staimer, an analyst with Dragon Slayer Consulting, provided some insight into this by identifying 43 steps in a typical SAN migration. Not all of the steps can be automated, but as time progresses more and more are added to the list of automated functions. But regardless of how much of the migration is automated, the human factor always has to be accounted for.

“It becomes quickly evident that there are limitless opportunities for human error,” said Staimer. “The likelihood of a mistake, misstep, misunderstanding, incomplete step or error is nearly 100%.”

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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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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