IT Infrastructure Insights

New Decade, Same Storage Problems

Jun 18, 2020

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. Nowhere is this axiom more valid than when it when we apply it to the storage infrastructure. As we enter into the new decade and go through the standard ritual of setting new year resolutions, we should take some time to think (or re-think) through our storage infrastructure strategy.

If we want to see change, we need to take this time to determine how we can design storage, so we don’t see the same old storage problems.  One of my personal goals for the new year is to be more intentional in everything that I do.  Intentionality seems to be fitting in storage management as well.  As I talk to customers, I continue to see and hear the same problems over and over.  In reflecting on these problems, there are three that stuck out.

Value Your Storage Administrator

In conversations with IT executives, it seems harder and harder to find deeply skilled storage administrators versus IT generalists.  The consensus is that experienced storage administrators are too expensive and too hard to find. Storage vendors are trying to make their storage arrays simpler to manage so that a generalist can operate it to address the shortage of storage specialists. That strategy works if you have a single storage system supporting your entire storage environment. However, at VSI, we have found that the average client has over seven storage arrays from at least three different manufacturers.  This menagerie of storage systems forces the IT generalist to spend an excessive amount of time correlating and normalizing data to generate utilization, performance, and health reports on the entire environment.

Most environments need a storage specialist armed with the right tools to analyze its use.   Other organizations that don’t have the IT staffing to specialize can use SRMaaS to help IT generalists manage the storage infrastructure.

You Need More Than Vendor Storage Management Tools

The diversity of storage environments brings up the second issue. Standard vendor tools are not enough. Some of the newer storage vendors like Pure and Nimble have done a great job with reporting, on THEIR storage. The ability to report on the storage environment is, in my opinion, the primary reason HPE bought Nimble.  Vendor-specific reporting tools are great as long as you only have one vendor and one storage system, model.  Most vendor reporting tools, however, fall short of management expectations if there is more than one storage array in your data center.

The Problem with Vendor-Specific Storage Reporting

Relying on these vendor-specific storage reporting tools provides incomplete information and doesn’t visualize the whole environment.  With this segmented data it is virtually impossible to any decisions other than based on gut feel.

With the lack of consolidated information, organizations end up having to rely more heavily on the vendors for planning, forecasting, and troubleshooting.  Of course, the vendors all have the solution, only buy their products and get rid of everyone else. A single vendor approach is not practical in most environments.  As a result, vendor-specific tools eventually force IT, professionals to manually consolidate information across systems. Often this information ends up in an Excel spreadsheet, which is out of date thirty seconds after IT updates it.

You Need to Forecast, without it Becoming a Full-Time Job

The third issue is forecasting future growth.  The combination of a large IT team, more business units, and more applications makes planning the next year’s purchases almost impossible.  Questions like how we know what storage is already in use or reserved for use by an application or do we have enough of the proper tier of storage are being asked every day by IT professionals.

These are just some of the challenges clients expressed to me in 2019. They were also the same challenges clients expressed to me in 2009. Storage Resource Management (SRM) is supposed to be the answer. The problem with traditional SRM is that it is costly, intrusive to the environment, and complicated to install and maintain. These SRM problems lead most IT professionals to continue to use Excel as their “SRM solution.”

At Visual Storage Intelligence (VSI) we deliver SRM as a Service to simplify it and lower its cost. We bridge the gap between SRM and Excel with an easy to use service that you can afford. VSI is a cloud-based service that provides storage reporting and analytics.  VSI learns and analyzes multivendor storage environments without the cost and complexity of the traditional SRM (Storage Resource Management) tool.

Revisiting Intentionality

Now its time to be intentional. Thanks to VSI, there is an option on the market that is simple to use and cost-effective. It provides a holistic view of storage across multiple vendors, arrays, and tiers.  VSI will free up the time that your IT administrators are spending building reports and analyzing data manually. It makes your IT generalists, storage specialists when needed.  The data center, business unit, or application owners can view the consolidated data by job function. VSI also enables planners to make sure they can forecast future capacity and performance needs.

Imagine walking into the next operations meeting with all the facts about your storage infrastructure at your fingertips or meeting with a vendor to know what you need from them.

In 2020 be intentional about storage management.