4 ways to contain IT storage creep

Everyday we create the problem of storage creep. If we produce the problem, then we can solve it. Here are some techniques to keep storage at bay.

4 ways to contain IT storage creep

In most businesses, data grows rapidly, voraciously consuming storage as it does so and ratcheting up expenses. Sometimes it seems impossible to keep it under control.

However, there is a difference between the Blob and storage that puts you in the driver’s seat. Data didn’t arrive on earth courtesy of a meteorite. We create it by ourselves every day. If we produced the problem, we should be able to defend against it and its associated costs. Here are some ways you can improve storage efficiency.

1.  Tier your data

Wouldn’t it be nice if business unit leaders would come to you and say, “I need a sub-millisecond response time on my reads and writes for this application,” plus inform you of all their other requirements? That would make it easy to determine the IT resources you should assign to an application. The truth, however, is that in many cases, business leaders don’t know what they need. They just want to make sure that the application does not slow down operations in their department.

It’s left up to you to guesstimate what they need. In this situation, to cover worst-case scenarios, you’re likely to err on the side of higher-performing storage. And that’s how expenses start to climb unnecessarily. However, it does not have to be the end of the story. Over time, a storage tiering system can help you move applications around so that those your business rarely uses run on lower-cost, slower storage, and the more demanding ones are bumped up to Tier 0 storage.   

2.  Keep it thin

Users often use a fraction of the space allocated to them. If that’s what you’re dealing with, thin provisioning can help. It’s a way of increasing utilization by slicing up how your storage is presented to the hosts.

It’s easier to understand thin provisioning if you think of a well-run bank that keeps cash reserves on hand for those who might want to withdraw money. The bank managers know it’s unlikely that all their customers will want to take their cash out at the same time. As a result, they can lend out much of the money deposited. However, they keep a pool of money available for those in need or who want to close out their accounts. It has the effect of multiplying the amount of money the bank appears to have.

In the same way, with thin provisioning, a logical unit number (LUN) becomes a shared storage pool that serves everyone. Since all users are unlikely to require all their storage at the same time, the LUN seems to have more physical storage than it does. Rather than reserving the maximum allotted storage for each application and letting it sit idle just in case it’s needed, it keeps everyone happy by relying on automation to provision storage as necessary.

3.  Add some flash

While you’re maximizing utilization, you also need to make sure you’re providing the level of performance required to support business objectives. Let’s say you have six applications: A, B, C, D, E, and F, A, B, and C run on Tier 2 storage, physical storage Unit One. D, E, and F are on Tier 0 storage, physical storage Unit Two. Capacity on Unit One is at 50 percent, while Unit Two, the high-performance storage, is maxed out.

It seems like you have excess capacity, but it’s the wrong type of storage. The excess in Unit One does not meet the business needs of applications D, E, and F. A potential solution is to elevate Unit One’s performance by installing flash storage, which can increase IOPS by 10 times.

4.  Make a plan

IT capacity planning is all about thinking ahead to make sure you get the most out of your resources while ensuring good performance. To create an iron-clad plan, however, you need data and information on your actual utilization and performance. With an IT infrastructure monitoring tool, you can view data about your storage resources, as well as other technology, servers and SAN, and see how they all affect application performance.

The right IT infrastructure monitoring tool offers trending and predictive analytics, providing a crystal ball into the future and enabling you to make sound decisions on storage investments.

In summary, some ways you can control storage creep include data tiering, thin provisioning, using flash storage and planning ahead.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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