How to save millions through storage optimization

By Michele Hope

While it's undoubtedly invaluable, technology often offers only part of the solution to storage optimization. "If you don't know how to drive and you're driving a broken car, buying a new car will not fix your problem [of not knowing how to drive a car]," says Ashish Nadkani, principal consultant with GlassHouse Technologies, an enterprise-storage consulting firm.

Although many enterprises have undertaken storage-tiering and data-classification initiatives, pinpointing exactly how much money they've saved as a result is a difficult challenge, Nadkani says. Cost-cutting efforts can be hurt when a storage array or type of RAID is not matched optimally to the application, he says.

Mark Diamond, CEO at storage consulting firm Contoural, puts the issue another way.

This isn't about buying new stuff to optimize your storage, he says. Instead, it's about determining whether the data you've created is stored in the right place. This discussion goes beyond the basic concept of using inexpensive disk to store data, and delves into how the disk is configured, especially when it comes to replication and mirroring.

"We typically see that 60% of the data is overprotected and overspent, while 10% of the data is underprotected -- and therefore not in compliance with SLAs [service-level agreements]," Diamond says. "Often, we can dramatically change the cost structure of how customers store data and their SLAs, using the same disk but just configuring it differently for each class of data."

One case in point is a recent analysis Contoural performed for a large manufacturer that used three storage tiers. After assessing the different types of data and their need for replication, the Contoural team recommended a more detailed, six-tiered storage environment (see graphic). The company's estimated savings are pegged at more than $8 million over the next three years. This includes the ability to defer further Tier 1 storage-hardware acquisitions for as long as two years.

Optimization technologies, such as virtualization and deduplication, are excellent and probably can save an organization thousands of dollars, Diamond says. But if you take the bigger picture of optimizing, not just storage but the data residing on it, "you can save millions," he says.

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