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Tips to Write a Better Storage Strategy

If you asked Michael Jordan why he was so successful, he’d probably tell you because he spent four hours each day to practice shooting free-throws. The fundamental basics are everything.

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”

- Michael Jordan


This can be extended to all things and planning your storage environment is no exception. It is obvious as a storage administrator that you consider important parameters like device performance, storage consumption, total cost of ownership etc. to write a storage strategy. But have you given thought about basic things like understanding data growth or the importance business of data? They do have a large impact on day-to-day storage operations and thus the business. In this post, I will touch upon two points that you can consider in your storage strategy blueprint.


Analyze Your Data in More Ways than One 

Data forms the crux of your storage. So, before you draft your storage strategy you need to go through your data with a fine-tooth comb. You should have a basic understanding on where your data comes from, where it will reside, which data will occupy what kind of storage etc. It has been widely believed that in most enterprises, 80 % of data is not frequently accessed by business users. Since that is the case, then why is there a need for data to reside on a high performing storage arrays? Normally, only 20% of data is regularly needed by the business and is considered active. This allows you to place your 80% data on a lower cost solution that provides enough performance and reserves your high performing storage for active data.

Another overlooked factor is the business value of data. An employee leave balance record normally is not as important as quarterly financial projection. Understanding your data significance can help you assign storage accordingly.

The last step is understanding the life cycle of data. Information which is critical today may lose its importance in the long run. A regular audit on the data lifecycle will help you understand what data needs to be archived. In turn, allowing you to save storage space and budget. Having a good understanding of your data landscape will help you plan your future storage requirements more accurately.


Collaborate with Your Business Units Frequently

As a storage expert, running out of disk space is not an option, so staying on top of storage capacity is truly your top priority. But you may not be able to achieve this unless you frequently collaborate with the business units in your organization. With a storage monitoring tool, you can accurately predict when you will run out of free space, but that might not be sufficient. Why?

Here is an example: Consider you are planning on 50 TB of data growth for your 5 business units over the next year, 10 TB each. This is based on evaluating the previous year’s storage consumption for each business. Then your company decides to acquire a new company which needs an additional 30 TB of storage. Based on this scenario, you will be forced make a quick storage purchase, which will affect your limited budget.

By having a better understanding of the business unit’s plan, you could have made a plan to accommodate the additional storage requirements. In fact, in larger organizations, legal and compliance teams play an important role in shaping the storage strategy. These functions largely rely on storage teams to meet many mandatory regulatory requirements. Frequent collaboration with your company’s business units will equip you with the knowledge on how data is expected to grow in the future. This will allow you to understand your future storage needs and plan your budgets accordingly.

These are just a couple out of many aspects that contribute to a successful storage strategy. The two points above are subtle ones that can be easily missed if not or not fully understood. What are the other important factors that you take into account when mapping out your storage strategy? What are the common pitfalls that you faced while drafting a storage strategy? Share your experience.

7 Comments
Level 12

I think the biggest area missing in storage strategy is prioritizing what data needs to stored on what media, and for how long. Some just find it easier to buy the same of everything not realizing the cost savings to put that 80% on lower performance higher density media. That along with not accounting for storage requirements for all your applications. Capacity planning is one of the features I plan to take a closer look at in NPM 11.5.2.

The other issues relate to a previous blog post (New Storage Technology: Should You Believe the Hype?) where some manager get caught up in the current new storage Hype instead of realizing that it is just Hype, and needs to be planned out.

Level 15

I agree.  The need for hot and cold storage and cost differential is a major portion of the storage administration duties or at least it should be.  Looking at the way the arrays are arranged and the storage growth needs.  If you are manually calculating storage growth using spreadsheets and a calendar -- like some many of the companies I have worked with -- only stands to encourage "A lack of planning of your part, does not constitute an emergency on my part" when the drives fill up.

MVP
MVP

As mentioned there are several factors at play here.

While a good capacity planning tool can help with your normal growth expectations, un-anticipated growth can throw a monkey wrench into your planning.

This can be due to un-expected growth due to economic changes, acquisition of another company, new products/services,and  new software.

I know in the mainframe world there is a concept of nearline storage where files (datasets) over a certain age were migrated to tape for longer storage and recalled via the tape library when needed.

This reduces the immediate strain on capacity on disk and the recall period of time is usually < 1 minute.  I would think that would be a huge benefit in the SAN world but being how drive space is assigned, I can see challanges that would require more of a system by system configuration.

Level 8

Solarwinds Storage Resource Monitor provides good capacity planning. You can download free one month trail Monitor Storage Performance - Capacity Planning | SolarWinds

Level 8

Near line storage is a great tip. Date intensive business industries like healthcare, finance etc. should take advantage of this concept. Thanks for putting this idea forward.

Level 12

hard working

Level 17

Data priority and archiving processes should be considered with the customers expectations data retention and retrieval process in mind.