The vendor’s desires too often lead to excessive marketing and inflated claims, which fuel the passion of the customer for a comprehensive storage solution decorated with brilliant bells and whistles. As in any relationship, a prolonged state of mutual deception is unsustainable, and eventually even the naïve administrator will realize that although life may be better now than it was yesterday, in the light of day the vendor’s performance is not so satisfying after all.
Storage administrators and managers are beset by vendors on the one hand and their own users on the other. In the tug of war between increasing user requirements and vendor product limitations, the storage administrator often ends up as the knot in the middle of a very tight rope. Adopting a SAN strategy at least breaks the cycle of spontaneous acquisition of servers simply to attain more storage capacity.
SANs make it easier to bring new resources online, but the technology still requires manual administration to create and assign LUNs and volumes, and presents new SAN management issues as well. For the storage administrator or manager, implementing a SAN is forward motion toward the goals of both reducing costs and streamlining storage management, but current SAN technology alone cannot achieve that goal.
Delivering On the Ideal
The ideal of a self-configuring, self-monitoring, self-scaling, interoperable, and application-aware storage environment, as first formulated in Digital’s Enterprise Network Storage Architecture (ENSA) and later in EMC’s Universal Data Tone, still resonates profoundly with storage administrators. The storage utility model, however, requires a sophisticated and intelligent infrastructure that is still under construction.
Who will pay for all the intermediate technologies required to get from where we are today to where we all want to be? You, the storage administrator, of course. As an example, between the first generation of limited, relatively slow, and very expensive PCs, and today’s feature-rich, high performance, and inexpensive platforms, successive generations of interim technology quickly went onto and off of the books of every enterprise.
Today’s SANs are just the first steps along an evolutionary path towards the storage utility ideal, and while more expensive and complex than future products may be, these SANs still offer quantifiable value compared to direct-attached storage models. Part of the difficulty of being you is in being responsible for purchase decisions on the products of today that you know will be superceded by new technologies over the next few years.
Vendors are increasingly aware of the contradiction created by a rapidly changing technology and the customer’s need to address immediate problems. To maintain viability, a vendor must create and offer solutions that accommodate both evolving customer requirements and the introduction of new features and functionality.
In the long term, those vendors responsible for designing solutions that accommodate current and future needs will be successful in winning and expanding market share. As SAN technology continues to evolve towards a storage utility, it should become much easier being you and much more likely that storage administration will be recognized as the key component of the enterprise that it truly is.