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Nine Ways to Cut Storage Costs

August 5th, 2005

Heard any good cost saving tips lately? Cost savings are never one-size fits all — your exact requirements determine what will work for you and what won’t — but there are some general areas you can look where extra dollars may hide. Read on for nine areas that are ripe for cost control in many IT environments.

Once you identify a target, you many find that your cost saving efforts reap benefits beyond what you anticipated. Consider Ascension Health, a US-based $10B/year (revenue) healthcare provider. Ascension had a specific storage problem: growing storage management costs drove them to standardize on a single array vendor. The problem was how to seamlessly deploy the new arrays in the midst of all their legacy gear. Ascension’s IT managers addressed this issue with a NAS Gateway solution that allowed them to multi-vendor storage within a single management environment. What surprised them was the number of other benefits they were able to achieve along the way. By adopting a new approach they also addressed issues such as backup consolidation, data availability, enterprise-wide data sharing, and data protection on desktops. They cut costs, increased efficiency, and delivered a return on investment that exceeded their expectations.

Here are nine commonly found pain points – items that drive up storage management costs and capital costs. Pick one and find a way to address it. You too may be surprised at the unexpected benefits that accrue along the way.

1.Reduce server proliferation

This one is obvious. The 40 million Windows servers now deployed worldwide constitute a whale-sized cost-cutting opportunity. Consolidate these servers to a smaller number of devices and you’ll save over Ј3000 each in management costs every year. Consolidation on scalable NAS Gateways can help by reducing the number of environments to manage.

2. Eliminate vendor lock-in

“Open storage” means freedom of choice. That can mean the freedom to deploy storage from multiple vendors, or it can mean the flexibility to standardize on a single vendor, free from various interoperability restrictions that may require you to implement multiple vendors. Either way, you’re working towards an environment that meets your requirements, rather than implementing vendor-mandated gear. These restrictions typically drive down utilization rates and drive up cost. So look for solutions such as NAS Gateways that support open storage interoperability. You’ll get the flexibility to leverage existing equipment, which immediately increases ROI. And down the road you can shop for the exact solutions that best meet your needs, further enhancing returns.

3. Put your backup in the fast lane

IT managers consistently rank backup among their most troublesome tasks. Server proliferation is largely to blame… there’s no simple way to backup a distributed server environment. Sharing a single tape library requires carefully coordinated backup. If one backup job fails it’s possible for the entire night’s backup to fail. On the other hand, if multiple autoloaders are used, equipment maintenance and tape handling become a challenge. The better answer is to simplify the task by consolidating storage to a smaller number of devices. This reduces the number of backup jobs to manage and the software licenses to buy.

4. Streamline capacity additions

A recent survey conducted by Digital Research concluded that capacity growth was the leading factor driving storage complexity. The process of simply adding space is not simple. If the storage is distributed, it must be added to individual servers, a labour-intensive task. If the storage is SAN-based, capacity additions require a tedious storage provisioning process. NAS Gateways eliminate both of these by allowing capacity to be added to a single pool that can then be allocated as needed to growing file systems, thus simplifying management and eliminating wasted space.

5. Simplify your Windows + UNIX/Linux environments

Most IT environments have some mix of Windows, UNIX, and Linux clients and servers. This can drive up costs in several ways. More servers are required, data sharing becomes cumbersome, and management becomes more complex. NAS Gateways are designed to accommodate all of these platforms, so consolidation, sharing, and management become simple.

6. Get painless protection for desktop data

Data resident on desktops is exposed. It’s vulnerable to viruses, drive failures, accidental deletion, and outright theft. This is why many organisations now maintain all user data in home directories resident on NAS Gateways. By mapping drives to person folders, users see no change to their applications, but all data can now be rigorously managed with snapshots, backups, and offsite data protection.

7.Remove performance bottlenecks

System performance is critical. Inadequate throughput impacts user productivity and the ability to perform timely backups. In data streaming applications, it can even directly impact company revenue. Conventional server and storage architectures present an inflexible mapping of resources that make it very difficult to address bottlenecks. NAS Gateways, on the other hand, enable a flexible performance-on-demand model that allow processing resources to be added when and where they are needed.

8. Accelerate data restore

The real requirement, of course, is not data backup. It’s data restore that’s essential. And restore needs to be fast, easy, and reliable. NAS Gateways address these issues with built-in snapshot capabilities that let IT managers roll back in time to recover files. For further protection against site failures, they allow data to be mirrored among sites using disk-to-disk data replication.

9. Simplify compliance

Regulatory compliance sounds complex, and it certainly can be. But in the end, compliance is another form of data management. And, as with any management task, the simpler the better. When storage from multiple servers and PCs is consolidated on NAS Gateways, the result is a single storage environment which simplifies all other tasks that follow. Auditing, backup, and protection for example become less costly when performed in a consolidated environment. Also, data stored within a single file-based environment can be easily searched; audit timelines can be very tight, so the ability to find all relevant records quickly and accurately becomes critical when the clock starts.

When it comes to storage, the financial bottom line is, well, the bottom line. And things have changed in how people view their storage ROI. Ten years ago, IT managers routinely stored data on the industry’s most expensive storage, and then went on to make five “business continuance” copies of it… also on the same overpriced equipment. Today, the increased demand for storage far outstrips budget growth at most companies. To the IT manager faced with this issue, “doing more with less” is more than a tired expression… it’s a tired feeling.

Help is available in two basic strategies:

Simplify: Create a simpler management environment with fewer moving parts and your costs will come down. NAS Gateways help by providing a platform designed for consolidation. A NAS Gateway cannot run your database application, but it can bring order to your storage.

Think Open: Open storage (aka, the ability to use anybody’s disk arrays) delivers huge dividends. You can better use what you have now, and benefit from new innovations in the future. NAS Gateways provide the open back-end that give you this valuable flexibility.

Combining these in the NAS Gateway environment gives you cost benefits that go far beyond point solutions. NAS Gateways don’t just reduce costs… they fundamentally rework them.

Why NAS Gateways Make Sense Now

NAS Gateways are emerging now for good reason. IT managers face multiple challenges: aging servers, flat budgets, and an urgent need to simplify their infrastructures. These cost-driven issues — combined with compliance and data protection concerns — are motivating them to re-evaluate how data is stored. For the unstructured data (ie, information that’s not in a database) that typically comprises over half of their capacity requirements, NAS Gateways offer new solutions. You can think of them as a server consolidation solution, but you may be surprised at how much more is possible. In the end, you may find they provide the key to that ultimate problem: how to get back your nights and weekends.

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