Is Your Storage Vendor Ripping You Off?

Oct 4, 2007

Robert McGarvey

The numbers are mind numbing. In 2006, per IDC’s research, worldwide storage costs hit $28.8 billion. It gets worse. By 2011, predicts IDC, storage costs will climb to $35.3 billion.

“In the world of CIOs the number one thing that is broken is storage and backup,” pronounced Rick Clark, CEO of Aptare, a developer of storage management tools.

But, frankly, a perfect storm is converging that just may bump storage costs ever higher. Rich media—video and audio—are taking hold in the enterprise. Regulatory requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley in the US, and similar initiatives in the European Union are forcing more and longer data retention.

Add this up and, of course, CIOs are frustrated. The salt in this wound is data growth—as much as 60% per year, said Patrick Eitenbichler, director of marketing, HP’s StorageWorks Division.

“Storage once was a minor, back-office concern. Now it is a huge part of the CIO’s budget and that has made it a front-and-center concern,” said Dave West, vice president, marketing for Commvault, a developer of storage software management tools. “CIOs are looking for help in cutting costs.”

A Little Seltzer Please

Take heart. Relief is on the way. But recognize that the old strategy—simply buying more and more storage as needs grow—just is not going to work much longer. “It’s become very important for companies to take a proactive approach to archiving,” said Eitenbichler.

Like what?

The news flash is the realization is spreading that much of what is getting stored is stored improperly, in too expensive media, and a lot of the rest should not be stored at all. That’s the bold assertion by Randy Chalfant, CTO, of Storage at Sun Microsystems. According to Chalfant, surveys of how and what enterprises store show that perhaps 30% of what’s stored is properly handled.

That leaves a staggering 70% that is improperly handled. Five percent goes to WAVs, MPEGs, and other files that should not be stored at all. Fifteen percent is allocated space that goes unused. Another 10% is allocated but orphaned (no longer associated with a use). Forty percent is dead storage, data that haven’t been looked at in six months or longer.

The good news: The CIO does have options, he or she can seize control of storage, said Sun’s Chalfant.

“CIOs are recognizing that they are getting taken to the cleaners with the infrastructure they are buying,” said Chalfant, who adds the way out of the spiral of increasing storage costs is to “align the infrastructure you buy with the needs of your internal customers, not the needs of the vendors who want to sell more capacity.”

Tiering to Cut Costs

That leads to Step One for cutting storage costs: Implement tiered storage based on the business value of the data that are stored, said Aptare’s Clark. CIOs have been loading up on pricey, high-end storage solutions (such as FC disks). That is fine for transactional data, but data that aren’t mission critical should be put on cheaper drives, even on low-cost tape and, right there, costs will start tumbling. Presently 70% of data are allocated to the wrong, pricier data tier, so just by insisting on proper allocation, “savings would be enormous,” said Clark.

Sun’s Chalant ups the ante in this re-think of storage. By his reckoning, only 15% of storage should go on premium, Tier One solutions. The next 40% would go to Tier Two storage, large mid-performance arrays in many enterprises. The single biggest category in Chalant’s model is Tier Three, which would put 45% of enterprise data on low cost media, in most instances tape.

“Sales people are in their selling Tier One solutions, but you don’t need them,” said Chalant, who added that most companies already have ample Tier One storage on hand, at least once they rigorously implement procedures for putting data that is less mission critical into lower cost storage.

Of course there are obstacles to achieving this nirvana. Internal customers always believe their data warrants Tier One storage, for instance, and then there are the inevitable costs and complexities associated with implementing software tools that help automate the sorting of data into appropriate tiers. But none of this is that complex. What it takes is a clear-headed commitment to managing storage costs before they eat up the whole of the IT budget.

“It all starts with awareness, with the knowledge that there are other ways to tackle storage,” said Chalant. Begin with the recognition that there are different solutions then watch the savings multiply.


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