Leveraging Your Untapped Storage

by : Joe Mullich

Most companies have massive amounts of unused and underutilized storage scattered across their enterprise. A recent study of 200 organizations found that 15% of all storage was allocated but never used; 10% was left behind when the server was moved, and 40% had not been referenced by an operating system for six months.

That's a lot of waste - of resources, of IT time, and of money.

"Increasingly, it is clear that IT can no longer afford to host discrete applications across discrete hardware for discrete organizations," says IDC analyst John Humphreys in a recent white paper.

Enter storage optimization. This is a process of visualizing, accessing, and relocating the valuable wasted resource of your untapped storage. This allows the enterprise to look at its data as a single entity, rather than scattered silos. The benefits are wide-ranging:

* Data is no longer wasted.

* You can always visualize the amount of data you have.

* Data management is simplified and automated.

* You can align your storage plan with business needs, processes, and technology.

* The potential for security breaches, compliance issues, and backup problems is reduced.

* You can defer unnecessary capital expenses.

IT is freed from fighting fires and can move from a reactive to a proactive stance, spending time on more strategic issues.

More effective use of storage - capturing and using your untapped data brings performance benefits, as well, since the process not only releases more storage but helps you put a structure into place for using your storage in the most effective way possible.

Humphreys calls the current optimization landscape "Virtualization 2.0," as companies leverage consolidation for ever-more-strategic purposes, including lowering operational expenses, improving service levels, and responding faster and better to changing business needs.

It's important to keep in mind storage optimization is not one-size-fits-all and must be carefully designed to the specific needs of your organization's priorities regarding flexibility, manageability, and other important considerations.

The five-step approach:
1. Define business requirements. Talk with all stakeholders and develop a strong understanding of all the issues that will affect the storage strategy, including customer expectations, compliance, and competition.

2. Assess current storage. By identifying business requirements and SLAs, you can quantify the short-term, mid-term, and long-term ROI for redeploying storage assets.

3. Tier, consolidate, and simplify. A centralized strategy will make it easier to control and manage storage centrally, using standardized IT platforms, tools, and interfaces, allowing you to find pockets of unused data. Currently, 40% of companies have just two tiers for their storage, meaning they typically have low-value data on expensive media.

4. Define service levels. Not all data is equally valuable or needs the same level of protection - and the value of data changes over time. Many companies have outdated reports still classified as important information that is kept on expensive media.

5. Monitor, manage, provision. Automatic monitoring and reporting capabilities makes data trackable across applications, platforms, departments, and vendors. You can have more efficient operations through better management and accurate charge-backs on a pay-per-use basis.

The information stored on computer systems is doubling every year, and the cost of managing storage is now nearly as much as the cost to buy it. With storage utilization rates running at only 40 to 60%, half of every dollar spent on storage may be wasted.

To see the payoff of storage consolidation in practice, let's look at KnowledgeBase Marketing(r), a subsidiary of one of the world's most comprehensive communication services organizations with 2,000 offices in 106 countries. They implemented a "blended" storage model that consolidated storage for its open systems platforms across two tiers. Results: 40% reduction in storage TCO, 50% reduction in storage administration time, 3X improvement in I/O throughput, and 86% reduction in transaction costs.

Companies in a diverse array of fields - energy, media, and education, for starters - have reported similarly impressive benefits from their own storage consolidation efforts.

To fully benefit from storage optimization, you must approach this as a methodical exercise. The right approach to optimization can result in a system that provides the correct degree of flexibility, availability, and security for your specific needs.