Storage 102: Consolidation in a Storage Network

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Use What You Have, Buy What You Need
What storage technologies enable you to get the most from your existing storage resources? What storage architectures provide you the flexibility to easily and cost-efficiently deploy new storage solutions? This article will examine those two questions and make the case that a software-centric design provides the best architecture for your storage infrastructure.

A wise man once said the most cost-efficient storage comes from the storage you have already purchased. Although the concept sounds simple, many analyst studies have shown that companies over-deploy storage assets and only use half the storage capacity that they purchase. This means the real cost of storage within those companies is twice as high as what they expect and agreed to spend when acquiring storage hardware. Increasing the utilization of existing storage assets should be an important goal when evaluating any new storage technologies. Intelligent storage software is needed to track and improve your storage utilization.

Optimal storage architectures should also provide flexibility to easily and cost-effectively deploy future storage solutions. In today's fast changing environment, it's hard to predict how much capacity is needed by a new application. It's even more difficult to predict the capacity needed a year or two in the future. What if a merger, spin-off, or major restructuring takes place? Do you want to rebuild your entire storage architecture? Or introduce a new management system that requires re-training everyone in your organization? To minimize cost and complexity, the ideal storage architecture is flexible enough to accommodate changes in business requirements, while preserving a consistent management schema. Storage software provides the layer of flexibility you need to preserve consistent management practices, independent from changes in business conditions or requirements.

Previous articles in this series have detailed the tangible benefits of storage networks. In summary, those articles explained that a pool of networked storage enables greater utilization of assets by providing flexible connectivity and simplifies management by offering a centralized view of all resources. The same logic applies when examining the separation of storage intelligence from the raw storage devices. Said differently, the separation of storage management from storage hardware provides substantial benefits in storage network consolidation. Independent storage management tools allow greater asset utilization by providing a mechanism to consolidate excess storage from multiple hardware devices and present them as a single, more useful, storage container. Many people refer to a software technology called virtualization to deliver this benefit. Separating the storage intelligence or management tools from the individual hardware devices can also provide centralization benefits by allowing a single set of tools to manage hardware from multiple vendors. In today's complex and ever-changing storage market, virtualization and heterogeneous device support are provided with intelligent software.

Tuning into the Big Picture of Your Storage Network
Today's IT architects, administrators, and managers are stretched to their limits by the demands placed upon them. As a result, many resort to making quick-fire decisions that sacrifice long-term goals for short-term tactical needs. Sustainable success can only be achieved by keeping strategic issues in mind. Clear examples of this can be found in most IT organizations by examining the process that they undertake to create any high level usage report or capacity planning exercise. Frequently, the raw data that is needed to make informed strategic decisions is spread across a mish-mash of vendor specific management tools, each acquired on a tactical, project-oriented basis. Storage software that supports multiple hardware vendors can cut across these tools and provide the summarized information IT executives need to make good decisions.

IT organizations would like to reduce their overall storage costs. Storage costs can be broken into two categories: one, ongoing management costs, and two, capital costs for equipment and tools. Studies of storage costs show that the average company spends between three times and seven times the cost for equipment on the ongoing management of the storage infrastructure. To make a significant impact on overall storage costs, IT managers must focus on reducing management costs and acquiring tools that enable this reduction. Implementing a software management tool that has strong support for multi-vendor environments can help reduce management costs, decreasing the overall storage costs significantly

Deployment Options for Storage Consolidation
Intelligent storage software is the optimal technology to deploy for a flexible storage architecture that re-uses and increases the utilization of existing assets. Intelligent storage software is also the optimal technology that will help build an adaptable architecture that will lead to lower storage management costs. The proprietary equipment and tools recommended by many of today's leading hardware providers lack the flexibility and capabilities to reduce your overall storage costs.

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