The Wikibon community met on Tuesday, Nov. 18, to discuss how storage executives can best address budget constraints in 2009. Most IT departments are facing budget cuts of between 5%-30%. Many Wikibon users have lived through downturns in the past two decades. While perhaps not as severe as this current economic crisis, these experiences have taught IT executives to find ways to stretch budgets through a variety of measures focused both on CAPEX and OPEX reduction. Not surprisingly, most of these moves are highly tactical, although executives do cite some architectural maneuvers that are more strategic in nature.
The case presented by Grant highlighted several challenges probably facing numerous organizations. Grant is a Senior Storage Administrator at a large financial firm. His group manages about 700TB's of storage across 400 servers. Exchange and SQL are primary applications. Approximately 300TB's of storage are virtualized today with plans to steadily increase that figure over time.
Grant's organization is facing several challenges, including:
- Deep budget constraints in 2009-- in his cast 75% for the next six months,
- High growth of SQL databases,
- Increasing volume size,
- Too many disruptions on storage adds, changes, deletes and moves,
- "Copy creep",
- An overall push to reduce costs.
Several years ago, Grant's organization decided to embark on an aggressive push toward storage virtualization to:
- Virtualize storage, consolidate multiple systems, and create a tiered infrastructure using LSI's SVM technology delivered through IBM,
- Establish a three-tier storage architecture,
- Consolidate function and subsequently software licenses and maintenance contracts,
- Virtualize servers with VMware (future).
Currently, data de-duplication is not a technology deployed at the organization and experiments with lower cost iSCSI technology did not provide the performance required.
For a more complete overview read about LSI's Storage Virtualization Manager (SVM) - Version 5. SVM 5 is a storage virtualization technology that allows LSI's OEM customers to sell end-to-end solutions (i.e. storage virtualization and thin provisioning and storage management software such as snaps and clones) to their existing bases as well as new arrays.
Because it is end-to-end, it allows OEMs and their VARs to provide services and maintenance in a single package that better meets customers' needs.This is good news for users. While LSI is not the first to provide heterogeneous storage virtualization, the company's OEM strategy allows server vendors specifically (e.g. HP) and other storage OEM's in general to provide a capability that can support near Tier 1 advanced functionality at modular storage price points.
This technology supports the strategy of leveraging installed infrastructure and focusing more on return on assets (ROA) versus spending incrementally to generate ROI.
Here's a brief summary of the advice from Wikibon users. In addition to negotiating harder for better pricing/deeper discounts, the community recommends the following tactical moves:
- Renegotiate existing contracts using leverage where it exists (e.g. a pending new purchase, reduced service levels, etc.) These include maintenance contracts, monthly software charges, and extending leases to lower monthly run rates.
- Cut non-essential projects and re-scope very large initiatives to reduce overall expenses.
- Re-examine personnel and reduce headcount for non-essential functions.
- Selectively outsource where it will reduce costs.
- Eliminate professional services expenses where possible by shifting responsibilities to internal staff, recognizing this will reduce service levels.
In addition, Wikibon users suggest several actions that are more strategic and architectural in nature, focused on improving return on assets in general. Specifically, as it relates to storage, users cited storage virtualization, if in place, as a tool to:
- Migrate data to less expensive storage tiers;
- Ease administrative overhead and maximize staff productivity, especially in the face of headcount reductions;
- Minimize migration expense (planning and disruption);
- Improve negotiation leverage, specifically where heterogeneous storage virtualization is in play (i.e. you can choose any array);
- Support lower disaster recovery costs, allowing diversity at the source and target.
The bottom line is that cumbersome LUN management, the endless search for contiguous free space and painful migrations are productivity killers that waste storage space and reduce negotiation leverage by locking in buyers. Storage professionals that have architected a virtualized infrastructure are in better shape to take advantage of that capability in a downturn, somewhat sacrificing service levels but gaining lower cost. Organizations that do not possess this capability should consider the cost of implementing it or risk overspending in this economic crisis.
Action Item: Storage executives should immediately develop and begin implementing a plan to reduce expenses to support management edicts to cut the budget. Negotiating leverage, reduced service levels, pragmatic headcount cuts, and storage virtualization are the tools of the budget cutting trade that users should employ. Communications is the key. Storage execs need to set expectations that everyone must sacrifice and expect reduced service levels in non-critical areas.