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Tips for storage buying decisions

Nov 13, 20033 mins
Data Center

* Weighing the cost of a purchase

Sometimes it is useful to go back to the basics.  Today, let’s look at one necessary component of a buying decision: the question of “does this purchase make good business sense for my company.”

My firm, Enterprise Management Associates, spends a lot of time analyzing and advising on buyer decisions.  Here are some things you might want to consider when buying your next storage array.

One obvious question is the issue of the time it takes to do some standard management tasks on the device.  Take for example the case of logical unit numbers (LUN). 

Standard management procedures for LUNs include such operations as creating, changing, copying, swapping and adding capacity.  In dynamic IT environments where storage is constantly changing (typical examples of this might be when data is added or migrated, or when new devices are brought online in a storage-area network), such tasks may be repeated frequently over the course of each quarter.

At least two distinct cost categories are associated with LUN management: the cost involved in using IT personnel to accomplish the management task, and the potential impact the management effort will have on the processes the array is supposed to be supporting.  Both contribute to the computation of the bottom line of any IT organization.

Regarding personnel costs, ask yourself the following:  how much time is required to complete each of these tasks in the current environment compared to the time would it take with the devices being considered?  An important issue here is that if the new device takes fewer personnel less time to configure, the difference between your current costs for LUN configuration and the costs of configuring the new device can legitimately be considered a benefit.

Here, for example, is a simplified case: 

Each month you spend an average of 10 hours on LUN configuration.  This operation requires the efforts of two members of your staff who cost you $100 per hour each.  Your annual cost for LUN management is therefore $24,000.

If the new device only requires one person to accomplish the same task, which can be done in half the time, your annual cost drops to $6,000, providing you with a cost benefit of $18,000.

Understanding the impact on revenue flow is equally simple in concept, but in reality it is often much more difficult to add up.  Simply put, if that system is necessary for a process that generates $1,000 per hour, your company loses $120,000 each year due to the down time associated with LUN management.  If a new system halves the downtime for you, you are adding $60,000 each year to the corporate revenue stream.

If you think of IT as a business, and of your purchasing as a support function of your business, this sort of approach makes a lot of sense.