Advanced storage features that seem whimsically inviting in individual storage systems may prove to be sources of great complexity in a large and a diverse storage infrastructure. Little involvement with business process stakeholders, IT architects and administrators, enables the purchase of “coolest” storage arrays that collectively grow into an unruly management mess. The lack of proper oversight and adult supervision can result in an inefficient and dysfunctional storage environment so twisted that no team of rocket scientists can unravel it without pyrotechnics.(regards to Robyn Hitchcock – Uncorrected Personality Traits).
hey, cheer up!
In a past blog I touched on the importance of managing information across an enterprise, identifying its value and mapping it accordingly onto storage hardware. Ok, I’ll admit that is not easy, but anything is better than nothing. Even if all storage hardware performed the same with no differentiation, one would still need to ensure that information is properly secured, privatized, discoverable and discarded. None of those is easy to figure out, so let’s turn to another part of the problem:
Storage tier definition
I get asked a lot about the definition of a storage tier. The theory being that once armed with a clear storage tier definition, an organization can place their orders with <favorite vendor here> for tier 1 through tier x. Oh, if only it was so easy, it is not. Storage tiers are in the eye of the beholder. Each organization must set its tiers of service and group storage hardware appropriately. Tier “one” storage to a health insurance records processor is tier “unusable” for a financial institution processing stock transactions.
complexity makes life interesting and ensures full employment.
One truism in the storage industry continues to be, well, ah, true: there is no shortage of storage product to pick from when defining a storage tier. Vendors and technology abound, innovation lives. But in that innovation lies the seeds of confusion and poor choices. Like the Cambrian explosion, many possible forms of storage products simultaneously coexist, but someday their diversity will diminish as market forces willow down the weak contenders.
I need to be careful here lest I rile anyone’s feathers but to test the “complexity” theory open the web page of your favorite top tier storage vendor. I mean companies like IBM, EMC, NetApp, HP, HDS and the like. Count the storage product offerings. On one site I counted 22 major product families and countless model numbers. Talk about covering your bases! Now of course all these models exist because someone is buying them – a testament to good selling techniques. But really, can’t things be simplified? Does the perversity of products help end customers of just allow vendors to inextricably infuse themselves into IT infrastructure?
Not to let the less-than-giant vendors off the hook, they too attempt to fill every nook and cranny hoping to either make it big (a few do) or get bought by bigger companies (win the lottery) or just fade away to oblivion. [quick side note: I did a briefing with KOM Networks recently which makes archive equipment. They’ve been in business for 40 years! amazing.] Again these “ less-than-giant vendors” slice and dice the storage market to the slimmest of differentiation.
Narrow your choices
Look at your data and service-level requirements to begin narrowing down the useful storage technologies. Is a unified Ethernet in the cards or do you need to carry along a legacy infrastructure? For most, considerations for an existing infrastructure must be made. Think of the future state of where a storage infrastructure needs to be. Plan out the obsolescence of existing equipment and its replacement candidates. If high transactions rates are called for, then a tricked out SSD product is in your future. But don’t put any service on high performance storage without a justification. Unless proven otherwise, services belong on “good enough” storage. Maybe that’s NAS, maybe that's iSCSI or maybe your server virtualization needs will drive the decision.
In any case, keep the “storage tier” count small. Drive down complexity by pushing a “one size fits all” approach. Avoid mixing vendors in a common tier – this can only lead to heart ache. Now that’s not likely to fly but at least the lunatic fringe case will surface and can be dealt with. As many vendors offer multiple and significant performance levels in a common frame consider these products to span as many service levels as possible
to simplify your life.
Backup and archive will loom large in any well thought out environment. Apply deduplication and recognize that replication across sites or systems (for disaster recovery) will often lock down a common vendor choice between systems to make the replication work efficiently.
Now you may be thinking, I know this, tell me something new. Well, that’s the trouble we know but do not act. Set a plan in motion to minimize the storage product count in your storage environment. And, don’t ever allow a application to be released into the IT wilds without an information and storage mapping plan. Taking this approach should make a CIO smile, knowing that tangible efforts are being taken to drive down costs and align IT infrastructure with business processes.
Posted by Gene Ruth