By now, everyone knows about the supply chain crisis impacting industries around the world – including storage. For storage administrators and IT teams, the crisis threatens to impact more than just Christmas shopping.

Critical organizational infrastructure, including storage hardware, are no longer readily available for purchase anytime they’re needed. If you haven’t planned your purchase months in advance, you can’t be sure you’ll receive and implement your devices on time.

The consequences of unplanned purchases can be severe. After all, organizational initiatives can’t be put on hold indefinitely while storage devices sit on manufacturing lines.

  1. Do you have a strategy to anticipate when you will need to purchase more storage?
  2. How can you optimize your existing storage if an array fails or an unexpected project begins?

No End in Sight to Supply Chain Delays

Some of the delays for key storage hardware components (like semiconductors) can be attributed to COVID-19. When the pandemic swept across the globe, it closed scores of factories and set back manufacturing timelines.

But that’s only part of the story. When manufacturers re-opened their doors, they were met with a surge in demand driven by buyer fears and changes in behavior post-pandemic. Unpredictable disruptions (like droughts and environmental hazards or shipment thefts) still slow down factory operations.

Meanwhile, backlogged shipping containers and trade routes – as well as truck driver shortages – threaten to compound supply line complications until well into 2023.

And when you buy, you’ll need to not only wait but also pay far more than you may have budgeted thanks to supply-and-demand imbalances and growing inflation.

How Can I Manage My Storage More Efficiently?

In light of today’s supply chain challenges, there are at least four best practices that can help you avoid unnecessary or last-minute storage purchases:

  1. Implement capacity planning that forecasts your future needs.
  2. Don’t let all-flash storage arrays catch you by surprise.
  3. Maintain device health and avoid premature purchases.
  4. Re-purpose available storage while you wait for your delivery.

Implement capacity planning that forecasts your future needs.

Barring unexpected surprises like sudden malfunctions or high-capacity project requests, you can map out how long you have until you need more storage.

Through capacity planning, you can model your storage’s past to forecast its future. Depending on your circumstances, you may need different kinds of models.

An organization with extensive recent data may use weighted averages to gain a representative window into their current circumstances. Or a company with some data gaps could rely on simple averages over a longer period of time to predict future trends.

The bottom line is that organizations should be able to compile models that best display their infrastructure environment. You can’t predict future results without firm past data.

Not sure where to start when it comes to capacity planning? Visual Storage Intelligence makes it easy for any IT team and even offers capacity planning as-a-service (CPaaS) through partners.

Learn more about Capacity Planning as-a-Service

Where there is a strong model, there can be strong forecasting. For example, companies who use Visual Storage Intelligence rely on our three separate capacity planning models to plot projections in both traditional and virtual environments.

These models are a baseline for hypothetical projections as well, in which storage administrators imagine a change in the data to see what the impact would be. Chances are, there will be unexpected capacity demands you need to leave room in your planning for.

Don’t let all-flash storage arrays catch you by surprise.

What if you use an “all flash” storage array (like Pure Storage or EMC ExtremIO)? Whereas the capacity of a traditional array is fixed, these variable capacity arrays are like moving targets, shifting up or down based on changes in data reduction ratios.

This gives storage administrators extra flexibility and increases cost efficiency. But it does so at the cost of added unpredictability.

If your effective capacity were to change by even 15% over a two-week period, it could have significant impacts on your infrastructure unless you expected such a change.

Only modeling that is based on historical trends (such as the array’s data reduction ratios) can reliably estimate when these arrays will reach capacity. This is one distinct benefit that Visual Storage Intelligence’s actionable automation provides that many SRMs can’t.

Pure Storage Cover

Are you trying to make the most out of your Pure Storage all-flash infrastructure? Maybe you are struggling to predict when your variable capacity arrays will run out of storage space. Or maybe you’re always on the hunt for ways to optimize what you already have. Learn three ways to maximize your Pure Storage infrastructure – all while avoiding surprises and emergency purchases.

Download Three Ways to Maximize Pure Storage

Maintain device health and avoid premature purchases.

With demand exceeding supply, it’s especially important that you avoid getting pressured into buying and relying on new storage before it’s actually needed.

(Caveat: You absolutely should rely on your capacity planning and life cycle audits to tell you when you might need more storage – and order that storage before you expect to need it. There is a fine line between overspending on what you don’t need and under-planning for what you do need.)

Hardware vendors continue to advocate for more frequent storage refresh cycles, typically every three to five years. As your storage equipment reaches its EOL (end-of-life) and EOSL (end-of-service-life), you may feel additional pressure to buy new.

(If you’re not keeping track of these dates, you should be. With Visual Storage Intelligence, clients can track device lifespans including purchase date, EOL, EOSL, and contract numbers / vendors.)

However, these milestones generally only indicate a date on which your OEM will no longer offer support or maintenance for your hardware. These dates shouldn’t automatically dictate a need to make a costly upgrade.

In fact, according to a survey from the Uptime Institute, from 2015 to 2020, refresh cycles lengthened from three years to five years between 2015 – 2020.

You can maintain device health when you have transparent visibility into your storage environment. Observability helps IT leaders see potential challenges with any current storage configurations as well as monitor for any excessive spikes and stay aware of any potential single points of failure.

In fact, Visual Storage Intelligence partners clients with a seasoned storage consultant who monitors and analyzes their environment from day one, sending a weekly email to help them stay aware of any potential risks and opportunities.

“Visual Storage Intelligence did all the work for us so we could spend our time on decision-making, not data collection and analysis.”

             – IT Manager, LARGE RETAILER

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Re-purpose available storage while you wait for your delivery.

Storage management can be a little like Tetris . In the classic arcade game, players must rotate falling shapes so that they land in a manner which fills every inch of space in the row. Completed rows are cleared from the screen, but if a row is left incomplete then space is wasted. The player eventually loses when the screen fills up.

In most organizations, a little wasted storage space here and there is not punished. It’s rarely even noticed. But if you’re stuck waiting for additional storage while there’s an immediate need, that free space becomes critical. Wasted space and supply chain delays can add up to “game over.”

A good storage management program will make it easy to identify at least three opportunities for efficiency:

1. Hidden free space.

Hidden free space (sometimes called “orphaned storage”) is space that is technically available but remains unnoticed. In general, there are two types of hidden free space:

  • Storage with nothing mapped to it.
  • Storage with no IO going to it.

With Visual Storage Intelligence, for example, users can log into a single-pane-of-glass dashboard and instantly see details about how much space is free, used, allocated, or orphaned. This information is visible from the enterprise level all the way to device-by-device, making it easy to find and re-purpose every last gigabyte.

2. Fragmented storage.

Sometimes, it looks like you have lots of storage available for use but you can’t fit your high-capacity project on any existing arrays. Does that mean you need a new array for the project?

Not necessarily. An analysis of your arrays could reveal opportunities for re-allocating storage onto other arrays, thereby opening up enough free space on a single array for your project.

3. Data that is ready to be archived.

Even storage that is currently in use might be able to help. Good file analysis, like VSI’s, helps identify files by their type and date of last access.

Do you see something that wasn’t accessed in ten years, but you don’t know what it is? Use file analysis to find out exactly what it is and whether or not it can be archived.

Retake Control from Storage Supply Chain Limits

These are just a few best practices for upping your storage management game in the face of unique supply chain challenges.

Even if things begin to stabilize soon, these same principles go a long way towards reducing both capital expenses and operational costs in increasingly complex enterprise storage environments.

As job functions also grow increasingly complex, you may be frustrated by a lack of time or data visibility for your infrastructure team. Storage-centric automation, like Visual Storage Intelligence, can help.

Want to see what that looks like? Just reach out. We’d love to hear about the challenges you face and show you how our software helps enterprise organizations like yours.

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