By Jim Champagne, Executive Director, Services Industry Sector
With storage expected to grow 650 percent in the next 5 years, CIOs face the daunting challenge of building an enterprise infrastructure that is cost-effective and, at the same time, robust enough to support the organization’s growth. In addition, the emergence of scalable cloud solutions and virtual data centers that can manage multiple devices, facilitate data convergence and store user-generated content seamlessly makes it important to critically evaluate effective storage options and plans.
The dawn of the virtual era has witnessed an exponential increase in the amount of data generated every second. Today, CIOs are expected to devise a strategy to manage digital data explosion, host numerous platforms and connect multiple devices while protecting patient privacy and automatically preventing data duplication! Additionally, the volume, velocity and value of data is creating a demand for change in the way information technology (IT) and data center supervisors manage people and processes and procure solutions.
Currently, there is a need for a comprehensive storage solution that can not only manage and store digital data, but can reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
A recent Gartner report suggests that the amount of storage capacity sold in 2009 was less than the data generated that year, indicating the end of linear growth in storage requirements and convincing organizations to optimize storage and create a platform for future expansion. There is an increased emphasis on strategies and solutions that enable CIOs to adopt new integrated, interoperable and scalable solutions based on virtual data centers and cloud computing platforms.
Nowadays, CIOs are expected to devote the majority of their IT budgets to innovation and reducing the cost of “keeping the lights on.” There is a greater emphasis on driving efficiency and reinvesting the savings towards innovation and compliance (HITECH Act-meaningful use).
Only a storage solution that has open standards, is capable of exceeding expectations, and is affordable will drive efficiencies while supporting growth. Buying such a storage solution in a competitive market is never easy. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind while evaluating storage solutions:
1. Ensure that your ‘preferred’ vendor has physically tested their maximum scale-up configuration
A solution that offers multiple disk drives for storage and shares a backplane, or a backbone used to connect several circuit boards together, has limited scale-up capacity. It is critical to ensure that the solution is scalable and you never outgrow the disk space. Inability to scale-up when required forces most customers to buy another product, adding to the overall cost-of-ownership of the solution. Insist that your vendor cite instances of scaling the system to ‘full’ capacity. Ideally, the vendor should have a proven, fully scaled system running that is continuously tested and monitored.
2. Verify that the solution is compatible with or ready for next-gen technologies
Like most other technologies, storage solutions are also prone to obsolescence, so it is important to verify that the architecture of the chosen system is open to newer technologies and protocols. Since, these solutions only depend upon their connectivity path, they are by far most apt for next-gen technologies. The means of connectivity, whether Ethernet or Fibre Channel, change far less quickly than hardware components, such as processors. Since most vendors are continuously enriching their products, always ask when the next hardware refresh is releasing and what will be the cost of the upgrade.
3. Recheck the ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ of the solution
Often you will come across vendors who are substantially less expensive than their competitors. In these cases, something may be missing in the configuration, such as licensing fees and version charges that are not required at the time of purchase, but will be needed in the future. It is best to get the TCO in writing for the expected life of the system. Include the cost of upgrade, and define whether maintenance fees will remain the same for the entire contract duration (especially in case of multi-year contracts). Also, clearly state that any omissions will be the vendor’s sole responsibility.
4. Clarify how much data the vendor’s solution ‘actually’ stores
It is important to clarify how much space or capacity is actually available for storing your data. Customers often end up with less capacity than promised since the solution reserves space for running product-specific applications that limit the usable capacity. Insist on getting the desired capacity (excluding product-specific requirements). Be clear about wanting the vendor to take responsibility for supplying any additional hardware at no charge should the system grow or not perform as promised at the defined workload.
5. Avoid the pitfalls of not knowing what you don’t know
Leading storage vendors speak of ‘partnership’ and building a trusted advisor relationship. They are often aware of the common mistakes customers make, and should be willing to honestly help you avoid the consequences of not knowing what you don’t know. It is advisable to ask “why is” or “why isn’t” a particular solution feasible, as well as “what are the long-term risks (and expected pitfalls) of the solution.”
Undoubtedly, an open, capable and affordable solution will enable CIOs to optimize their storage solution without getting locked into a single vendor. However, it is important to critically evaluate solutions from different vendors to judge how efficiently (and cost-effectively) they resolve the immediate and long-term pain areas while aligning with your business strategy and growth plans to create a true platform for success.
Jim Champagne, Executive Director, is responsible for the company’s overall growth and strategic direction, primarily focusing on its fiscal health and stability. He provides direction and develops partnerships for Dell InSite One and its clients. Mr. Champagne remains an active contributor to the key relationships that have helped to establish the company’s broad client base.
Click here to go back to the Washington Report homepage. Download this week's full Washington Report. Subscribe to the Washington Report.