Gartner: Storage Should Get To Basics

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It’s no good waiting for technology to save you. Storage problems can be fixed with simple good management, says Valdis Filks of Gartner

Demand for storage has surged ahead of other areas of IT, while the management of the asset has fallen behind, says Valdis Filks, a research director at Gartner. This means the time is ripe for users to rein their storage in with effective management, he says.

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eWEEK Europe met Filks at a Gartner briefing for IT professionals in London last week, and absorbed a set of insights that amounted to a call to get back to basics, relying on strong management more than fashionable technology. into how to manage the storage problem in the enterprise.

Don’t look at virtualisation to solve storage problems, he said at the outset. Storage has effectively been virtualised for years, and the solutions to storage problems are likely to be much more prosaic than any new technology fix.

“Storage guys are firefighting,” says Filks. “The problem with IT people is they look at technology to solve problems, but are not so good at managing systems. For ten years we have been buying technology first and managing second. Don’t look for virtualisation to solve storage problems. We have been slicing and dicing storage for ten years.”

“It is a management problem – understanding what we have and where it is,” says Filks, and the way to approach this is with a dashboard: “some way to get the information from the system, mapping the underlying storage to see how full it is”.
The dashboard should be as unobtrusive and easy to understand as that on the Saab Filks drives in Sweden. “I can turn off all the dials except the speed. If I’m about to run out of fuel – which is the same thing as a data centre running out of storage – the whole damn dashboard lights up!”

“We have dashboards for servers and networks,” he says. “It’s a crime that we don’t do it for storage. You need visibility. Without that, you can’t do the next thing.”

Planning

After that, you need capacity planning… “but you need about twelve months data,” he says. There is a trend for “thin provisioning”, which expands storage when it’s needed, but it can’t be done unless capacity planning is in place, he says.

If you have data for a quarter you can get a good idea what storage demand will be, but you need a whole year says Filks: “You need to run twelve months, to look for things like Easter peaks, and holiday demands.” There’s an 80:20 rule, he believes: if you have eight or ten months, you can predict demand with 80 percent accuracy, but 12 months’ data boosts this to 90 or 95 percent.

“Planning is important. If you buy too much you waste money,” says Filks. If you buy too little storage, you run the risk of having to ask for extra part-way through a budgetted year, which makes you unpopular with the CFO.
Spring cleaning

In the recession, companies need to slim down and have a spring clean, says Filks: “We have had fat times, and become fat – now we need to be thin.” That means finding things that are installed and being paid for, but which never get used.

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