Without knowing how much storage is being used, where it is used, and who is using it, IT cannot effectively allocate storage resources.
Managing storage resources has never been more challenging or critical. After all, storage is growing at an estimated 60 percent or more annually for the average company, even as storage utilization rates remain at an alarmingly low 30 to 40 percent. At the same time, storage resources are often spread across multiple geographic sites as well as virtual environments, making end-to-end visibility difficult.
Of course, such issues would be far less worrisome if storage budgets expanded in parallel with new storage demands so that organizations could simply buy more hardware and hire more personnel to manage it. Instead, while storage typically represents a quarter of the total IT budget, that 25 percent is increasingly being used to address escalating costs associated with data center space, power and cooling, and the like.
That's not all. Organizations also face a range of operational hurdles as they often use disparate systems and tools, people-intensive processes, and reactive rather than proactive strategies in their efforts to address storage challenges-all while operating in team silos and struggling with misaligned service levels.
With budgets remaining flat, data requirements increasing, and the shortage of skilled individuals to manage storage infrastructures continuing to grow, the need for better storage resource management has become a business priority.
The good news is that by adopting a more software-centric service management framework, organizations can manage their vast storage resources while controlling the associated costs now and in the future.
Know the Environment
Managing the storage environment is virtually impossible without end-to-end visibility of the physical and virtual elements in the environment. Organizations must be able to see all of their storage assets, from fabric to array, as well as host assets, including volume managers, file systems, databases, and applications. End-to-end visibility not only ensures the performance of the data path, but also provides information for storage reclamation.
Having a single view of the full storage stack, from application to spindle, enables organizations to understand application dependencies on infrastructure elements and see changes in near real time. Potential bottlenecks or failure points can be identified, and array-level events that might impact applications can be pinpointed.
Drive Up Utilization
Once IT has an understanding of the storage environment, the organization can then begin to focus on increasing utilization. Many organizations cannot make informed decisions about storage budget expenditures simply because they do not fully understand how storage assets are being used by business applications. To determine how much storage is currently available, then identify any additional storage requirements, and ultimately maximize their storage assets, organizations must have visibility into current and historical disk usage. They must be able to see and measure available resources and storage burn rates in order to provide accurate forecasts for capacity planning and budgeting and to avoid unnecessary storage purchases that might reduce storage utilization levels.
When combined with global business-level reporting capabilities, this data can be used to recognize storage trends across multiple data centers and enable IT to determine storage utilization and capacity growth for storage arrays, storage tiers, and more. In addition, armed with this information, IT can compare storage trends across geographic locations; find the application or business unit that typically consumes the most storage, and drill down to identify waste.
Improve Storage Operations
Storage administrators struggle to ensure uptime and maintain service levels in a storage environment that is constantly expanding, changing, and becoming more complex. Yet one of the most effective strategies for addressing this challenge is simple: Stop reinventing the wheel.
For years, IT organizations have used enterprise software to automate business operations such as production, distribution, and customer care-and with tremendous results in improved quality and responsiveness. Yet these same organizations continue to use scripts and cumbersome monitoring-centric solutions to manage their IT storage operations.
A more efficient and effective solution is to adopt an iterative, process-oriented approach to automation across the storage supply chain. This approach enables organizations to standardize their storage management processes, implement consistent operational policies, and automate them. Furthermore, unlike monitoring-centric management tools, process automation offers a range of development options to enable organizations to adjust as requirements evolve. As a result, IT can quickly adapt to change and continually improve their storage management processes.
Deliver Storage as a Service
Integrating storage with the business requires a global view of storage, with analysis at the enterprise level and capacity and cost correlated to business groupings. It also requires insight that can help translate storage operational metrics into business terms and measure infrastructure against business risk and efficiency.
By mapping storage assets to the boundaries of the organization, businesses can systematically reduce risk and decrease costly inefficiencies in allocation and utilization. With an understanding of criteria such as storage tier definitions and geographic and business boundaries, IT can implement chargeback for storage services based on specific metrics.
Furthermore, providing multiple views into the same data ensures that critical information can be seen by individuals with various responsibilities, from storage operations to business unit managers, the CIO, and others. This not only promotes awareness and accountability, but also helps align IT to business objectives.
As storage utilization rates remain alarmingly low and IT environments become increasingly complex and difficult to manage, many organizations remain mired in outdated manual management techniques and siloed procedures that fail to provide the visibility, business insight, and operational capabilities needed to align storage with business goals. Yet, without knowing how much storage is actually being used, where it is used, who is using it, and more, IT cannot effectively allocate storage resources.
At the same time, demands for storage continue to escalate, even as storage budgets remain relatively flat.
Clearly, it is critical that IT personnel gain visibility and control across their heterogeneous storage environments. They must be able to discover and visualize how applications map to the resources they consume across all elements in the data center, including virtualized environments. They must also implement prudent storage capacity management practices by reclaiming lost or wasted storage, forecast for current and future requirements, and enable tiered storage to match data to the appropriate storage device according to business requirements.
In addition, monitoring and reporting on changes in the storage environment has become a business imperative, and organizations must be able to implement service levels and chargeback for storage services rendered to the business.
With these capabilities in place, IT organizations will be able to deliver storage as a service and take a more proactive, integrated approach to storage resource management, even in an increasingly challenging and complex environment.