Storage administrators are often the unsung heroes of data management. Charged with maintaining data availability and safeguarding the vital information that drives their companies’ businesses, storage administrators frequently face restrictive budgets, a lack of support from upper management, and the joy of juggling the requirements of multiple departments simultaneously.
For most IT shops, the storage administrator’s tasks are further complicated by a lack of uniform management tools and infrastructure. An eclectic mix of applications, server platforms, storage assets, and management and backup software of various vintages presents a constant and frustrating challenge. The bottom line is that unless you’re a storage administrator in a well-heeled enterprise with an unlimited budget, it’s not easy being you.
Storage administrators do not have to suffer in perpetual isolation, though, as a gaggle of new vendors is ever willing to parade through the data center, each offering its own version of storage salvation. Yet despite the occasional free lunch or dinner, salvation never comes cheaply. Still, even with ever-tightening IT budgets, storage administrators can dream that one or another of these solutions will actually make life bearable, provided upper management can be sold on the idea of spending money to save money.
If the proposed path to salvation is a SAN, there’s actually ample justification for funding. SAN technology has a proven track record of reducing overall storage administrative costs and facilitating data availability. On the other hand, SANs also have a proven track record of operational, management, and interoperability issues as well, and all too often vendors propose various boxes instead of well-formulated solutions. For the storage administrator, the trick is to maximize cost savings and the benefits of SANs while minimizing exposure to new and unexpected problems that may be inherent in the proposed solution.
Ever a Balancing Act
Balancing the advantages that SANs provide with the liabilities that accompany a new technology is no simple task, especially if those potential liabilities are buried beneath vendor promises of paradise. One of the recurring complaints of storage administrators is that there is no World Court to take the vendor to if promises are broken or go unfulfilled. This is especially true in the case of small and medium-sized businesses that lack the economic clout to force vendors to make good on their pre-sale promises; it would take a stadium full of Judge Judys to process the current backlog of complaints.
The resolution, though, seems fairly straightforward: vendors should not oversell their product capabilities, and storage administrators and IT managers should take a Missouri-like “show me” approach to evaluating SAN proposals.
Vendors and customers sometimes idealize their relationship since it initially satisfies deep longings on both sides. The vendor pines for the loyal customer who will, without hesitation, continue to fax orders for more products at whatever price. The customer, on the other hand, constantly longs for the storage solution that maps perfectly to their business needs, that never sees obsolescence, and that scales harmoniously with current and future requirements.