Thursday, October 22, 2015

Why Every Business Needs a Storage Assessment

Let’s pretend you’re in the market to buy a new house. You’re confident your current house is going to sell in the next few months, and you’d like to move as soon as possible. 

I am currently undergoing this process, and at times, the number of questions to go over feels daunting. What is on your list of attributes you’d like your new home to have? How are they prioritized? How much does price affect your decision? Here are some common filters when searching for real estate using common sites:

1. Listing type
2. Price range
3. Location
4. Number of beds
5. Home Type
6. Number of bathrooms

And the list goes on.

Maybe you’d like to view according to square feet or how many days it’s been listed. As I run through the filters and questions I start to pick candidates and save them on a list to research.The plot of land and location may be beautiful, but does that river raise the cost of insurance? How much? Is there a flood risk?

Now it’s time to start visiting and walking through places… creepy Michigan basement – no thanks.  Oil heat – Seriously? Water damage – pass. Sketchy roof – next house, please. I walked through one place where the tenants were present. They were really nice and after talking to them a bit, they mentioned that shortly after moving in they noticed that they would find the refrigerator in the middle of the kitchen. Foundation issues – can’t run fast enough.

It would be so much easier if all this information was provided honestly up front.

Approaching a storage purchase for your datacenter can feel just as daunting. Now, more than ever, there are a myriad of options in the storage market and most all of them have a valid play and use case. But, before you can choose a new storage array, shouldn’t you know what you have first? Just like any other major purchase, it’s helpful to take stock of what you have and how it’s served you over the time you’ve used it. When attempting to do this with your storage environment, you’re often limited to the capabilities of the arrays or hosts connecting to it. Just like choosing a new place to live, there are a number of factors that often come up.

1. Connectivity
2. SSD Support
3. Data efficiency
4. Ease of use
5. Vendor Support
6. Performance

There are many, many more storage features out there and each manufacturer often has their own unique implementation of them. So, how does one choose which factors should be given more weight in the purchase decision? So often we use a “best guess” to choose, and this can lead to misuse of a large portion of your budget, especially when you consider that storage is often the most expensive piece of the pie when compared to compute and networking. For this reason, it’s important that we take stock of what we have, the problem we’re looking to solve, and make sure that moving forward we have the tools in place to make this decision easier. Once we’re able to report on what we have and how we’re using it, we can then confidently make an informed decision on how to add onto, or replace portions of our storage infrastructure. This is the beauty of this -if we have this information in hand first, suddenly we’re able to quickly filter out all the vendors with solutions that don’t fit our problem. The flooded list of storage vendors suddenly becomes a more manageable list of two or three.

A storage assessment will produce a report providing an inventory of what you have, how you’re using it, and help identify areas of improvement. You can improve performance, availability, and reduce operating costs – who doesn’t want to do all of that?! With this knowledge, you can now start to answer other initiatives with certainty: Should we entertain cloud storage? What about a colocation facility? What kind of storage should we have at our DR site? How much can we save in power and cooling by replacing legacy storage? With clear direction, you can now accomplish more than you thought possible.

- Adam P.

Adam P. is a sales engineer with experience in servers, storage, and virtualization with a focus on data management. He started working with VMware ESX 3.5 and has worked with numerous companies assisting with physical to virtual initiatives. When not talking storage or virtualization he’s binge watching shows on Netflix or enjoying some Short’s brewery beverages and playing board games with friends. His favorite movie of all time is: The Big Lebowski.


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