Accelerating Storage ROI with Storage Resource Management

Enterprise IT organizations are increasingly being called upon to help their companies drive revenue growth by processing and managing new data sources that increase business intelligence and enhance customer engagement. As a result, many of these organizations are experiencing data growth rates in excess of 20% to 60% per year. In addition, in order to improve efficiency, organizations are adopting virtualization and software-defined architectures that increase business agility and flexibility. By abstracting the hardware infrastructure, virtualization technology may obscure the relationships between application services and the underlying physical resources they consume. These new abstraction layers may make it difficult to optimize resources to meet service levels while controlling escalating storage costs.

While storage resource management (SRM) solutions have been around for over a decade, many enterprises are increasingly depending on SRM to gain insight into where and how capacity is being consumed. Storage resource management helps these organizations control costs as the size of their infrastructure grows. Understanding how SRM can help your business is essential to getting the most out of your investments in SRM and your storage infrastructure.

Three ways that Storage Resource Management can help you control costs are:

  1. Reducing capital investments
  2. Improving productivity
  3. Minimizing unplanned downtime and performance issues

Let’s take a closer look at these three areas in a bit more detail.

Reducing Capital Investments
Many of today’s large enterprises are managing multiple petabytes of storage with data growing 20% to 60% per year. According to Gartner estimates, the average cost per raw terabyte of enterprise storage last year was $3,212 (Source: Gartner, Inc. “IT Key Metrics Data 2014: Key Infrastructure Measures: Storage Analysis: Current Year,” December 16, 2013). This means these organizations are investing millions of dollars in new capital each year just to keep pace with data growth. Surprisingly, many of these organizations have low utilization rates and limited visibility into historical workloads that would enable more efficient storage tiering. Therefore, they end up purchasing significantly more capacity at higher prices than is needed to meet business requirements.

Storage Resource Management solutions like EMC’s ViPR SRM can help storage teams improve utilization rates by tracking storage consumption by service level to identify where, when, and what type of capacity will be required. This enables just-in-time purchasing processes to avoid over-purchasing capacity.

The capacity utilization rate is an important metric in assessing how efficiently your organization is using its existing capacity. It is the ratio between the capacity that is used vs. usable in your environment. In working with EMC customers, I’ve seen a wide range of utilization rates that span from a low of about 30% to a high of 80%. The average tends to be just over 60%, but many of our customers are at 50% or less. A utilization rate of 50% means that for every terabyte used, 2 terabytes were purchased. Increasing the utilization rate to 66% would mean that for every terabyte used 1.5 terabytes would be purchased. This equates to purchasing 25% less capacity to meet business requirements. For organizations with rapidly growing, multi-petabyte storage environments, improving utilization rates can save hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year in capital acquisitions.

SRM also allows storage teams to make more effective use of storage pools and thin provisioning. These technologies increase utilization rates by enabling storage teams to pool resources and allocate capacity on demand. SRM tracks consumption of these pools and estimates “time-to-full” to help storage teams ensure adequate capacity is always in place to meet business expectations. It also identifies over allocated pools where capacity can be reclaimed and repurposed to meet new requirements. And, it helps identify orphaned volumes or volumes and file systems with no activity that can be reclaimed and put to better use.

SRM can improve the management of a tiered storage infrastructure. Many companies have moved to tiered service offerings to help lower costs. Tier 1 storage typically uses more expensive disk drives with higher levels of replication to support data protection and performance requirements than Tier 2. SRM allows storage teams to understand historical workloads, identify replication relationships, track capacity consumed by a host, workgroup or application, and create and distribute chargeback or show-back reports that help align the cost of storage services with business objectives. This allows storage teams to better understand where Tier 2 resources can be deployed without impacting SLAs to reduce costs.

Improving Productivity
The capacity managed per storage FTE is another common benchmark used to assess how efficient your organization is at managing storage. While this value typically grows over time and varies depending upon the size of the environment, it is based on the notion that one person can only do so much. As the capacity grows, headcount must be added to support this growth assuming business as usual processes are followed.

Storage resource management can improve productivity by enabling storage teams to manage more capacity with the same resources as the size of their infrastructure grows. This avoids adding new, often hard to find, resources to support business requirements. SRM automates and simplifies common tasks like capacity, performance, and chargeback reporting, change tracking and configuration validation, performance reporting and troubleshooting. This frees up the storage team to focus on more value-added tasks like planning and delivering new storage services.

Minimizing Unplanned Downtime and Performance Issues
According to IDC, the cost of downtime for companies with more than 10,000 employees is over $1.5 million per hour (Source: IDC, “Measuring Cost of Downtime and Recovery Objectives Among US Firms,” July 2013). More difficult to assess, but clearly a problem for many organizations, is the impact of slow performance. Experience has shown that over half of SAN issues are due to configuration problems. Most organizations do their best to follow design best practices and comply with vendor support matrix recommendations. However, in environments that are growing in size and complexity, consistent adherence becomes increasingly difficult. Storage resource management solutions help reduce downtime by tracking compliance with design practices and support matrix recommendations to ensure your environment is always configured right to meet service levels. When something does go wrong, SRM can help reduce the mean time to problem identification by providing visibility into configurations, health, and performance across the data path.

So, Where Do You Start?
While there are significant benefits to be gained by adopting storage resource management, success is dependent upon understanding how people and processes will evolve when using SRM to derive these benefits. Starting off with an understanding of what you want to achieve and how SRM can help you achieve those objectives is essential to getting the most out of your investment. EMC has developed a process for working with its customers to evaluate their needs and understand how SRM and other software-defined solutions can help their customers reduce costs and develop a more agile environment. This process is called the Storage Transformation Workshop. The Storage Transformation Workshop helps customers assess their business priorities, identify potential solutions, and quantify the financial impact those solutions could have on their organization.

Storage resource management can help IT reduce costs while meeting SLAs as size and complexity grows. If you would like to find out more on how EMC ViPR SRM and software-defined storage solutions can help your organization, contact your EMC representative or click here to sign up for our upcoming webcast to learn more about our Storage Transformation Workshop.

Kevin Gray

About the Author: Kevin Gray

Kevin Gray leads marketing for Dell Technologies Telecom Systems Business Foundations solutions. He has more than 25 years of experience in telecommunications and enterprise IT sectors. His most recent roles include leading marketing teams for Dell’s telecommunications, enterprise solutions and hybrid cloud businesses. He received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and his MBA from Bentley University.  He was born and raised in the Boston area and is a die-hard Boston sports fan.