Credit crunch is nice timing for HDS’ Storage Economics initiative

Written By: Peter Williams
Published:
Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

In the past 12
months Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) has been doing some interesting work on
storage lifecycle costs behind the scenes. The fruits include its ‘Storage Economics’
strategy backed by a simple-to-use calculation tool so customers can see
quickly where storage cost savings are likely to be made.

Was it serendipity
that HDS produced such a tool and approach just as the credit crunch started to
bite, or did someone see signs of the downturn early? Either way, it is exceptionally
good timing.

In a presentation
earlier this month Michael Väth, HDS’s senior VP and general manager for EMEA,
set the scene with a few pithy statements which few would dispute: “IT budgets
will go down” but “data storage growth is still there” and “money for
investments is scarce.” So IT departments are being pressured ever harder to do
more with less.

He added that
consolidation was a major driver. Consolidation can help simplify management
and reduce ongoing operational expenditure (OPEX). In turn this reveals one key
to unlock real storage cost savings, namely that “OPEX needs to reduce [at
least] in line with CAPEX [capital expenditure].” Väth said that companies
should focus on return on assets (ROA) rather than ROI.

In its own survey,
HDS found nearly two-thirds of IT managers needed help managing operational
costs associated with their storage infrastructure; unsurprisingly, a similar
percentage found it difficult to calculate these operational costs in the first
place. Herein is a problem for many companies.

Ongoing running
costs are invariably not carefully separated out. It was always thus but needs
to change. For instance, power (electricity) usage may not be broken out across
a building, let alone within an IT department or into separate segments of a
data centre such as the data storage. There is actually a lot of waste, but
this needs identifying if organisations are to wring out cost savings in the
face of inexorably rising storage demands.

In past 12 months HDS
has collated over 600 client engagement experiences from all over the world
covering the past six years. It was from this that the HDS Storage Economics
methodology emerged. It comprises a series of services and tools to help
organisations better understand and assess their storage needs from an economic
perspective.

One part of this
is its desktop “Tiered Storage Economics Quick Estimator” tool which is
populated with default values (variable according to country selected) taken from
this research, and which drives a spreadsheet behind the scenes. It includes 33
different storage cost categories, including electricity, data centre floor
space and backup server costs, as well as compliance risk and data retention
issues. Straight hardware costs are in fact secondary.

In a one-to-one discussion
with HDS with the tool displayed, an organisation will probably know some but
not all of its data storage cost figures to apply. The defaults then fill the
gaps so that an instant rough estimate of operational costs and potential savings
is displayed. HDS believes it produces about 80% accuracy but, more importantly
(including to HDS), it opens up a dialogue and acts as a stimulus for the
client to investigate more deeply. Invariably the estimator reveals enormous
potential savings.

Moreover, HDS
thinks this should be a high-level discussion involving the CFO as well as the
CIO or IT Director. It is something that can be done and acted upon quickly
without the need for a review of all internal costs, which is itself a costly
process.

HDS has also
developed a chargeable one-day storage economics workshop and a 2–3 week course
for those wanting to go deeper. It is an approach that every IT equipment
vendor could try (although, for some, it might backfire as their customers might
as a result go to another vendor to save money). Väth himself acknowledged this may mean
selling less storage to customers as a result of their getting more value from
their existing assets.

There is another
reason why every storage user should be concerned to look at this approach. Bob
Plumridge, HDS director technical marketing for EMEA, pointed out that demand
for raw disk capacity was not slowing down but that the frequent migrations to
higher capacity equipment were of no value to the business and would take
longer through ever more data to move.

Higher disk
capacities will come through new storage approaches (at an as yet unknown
capital cost) but accessing them means migration. Also, disk spin speeds were
not increasing, so transfer times for more data would increase.

The HDS approach
going forward will be to eradicate major migrations through provision of, for
instance, field-replaceable (protected) RAID, a virtualisation engine with thin
provisioning, massively parallel switch architecture and intelligent virtual
mega controller. The economics to users will be in incremental upgrades rather than
any major rip and replace.

Ultimately, this
highlights something I have been banging on about for a few years. The only ultimate solution to the data storage
explosion is for an organisation to reach a point where the amount of data
coming in ceases to exceed the amount of data removed from the system (either
deleted or placed in off-line storage), so that on-line and near-line volumes
cease to increase. It is only then that storage will become completely
contained and manageable.

That does not detract from the HDS Storage Economics
initiative. It deserves to be seen as a commonsense approach by user
organisations.