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Storage Teams Grow in Popularity

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The concept of dedicated storage teams has been catching on in large enterprises in recent years, driven by the belief that such teams can deliver the benefits promised by modern storage technologies, including better cost control and greater flexibility and agility.

According to an ongoing Gartner survey, in 2000, fewer than 1 percent of respondents said they had a dedicated storage team in place, and in many cases that “team” consisted of one person.

But by mid-2002, almost one-fourth of respondents had implemented a dedicated storage team, and last year, the number of respondents stating that they had a dedicated storage team in place jumped to 70 percent.

That said, Gartner found that the teams typically were not empowered to address broad storage issues, limiting their ability to deliver potential benefits.

Analysts say creating a dedicated storage team can deliver many advantages. System administrators barely have time to administer servers, let alone tend to storage networks, they say. This neglect can lead to storage outages and under-utilization. A dedicated storage team can develop storage-specific best practices and focus activities that lead to improved availability and utilization.

Some analysts have suggested that the future of storage lies in the storage utility concept, which they say will require a dramatic shift in how enterprises organize, staff, and manage their storage infrastructures. To be competitive, companies must have a well-established storage team in place by 2008, they say.

Having the Right Technology Matters Too

That said, not everyone in the storage industry thinks a dedicated storage team is necessary. They say that while having skilled people in place are important to any IT strategy, there is too much focus on having a storage team. To be competitive, they say, enterprises must apply advanced technology to create cost and service level advantages, not an over-abundance of highly skilled and platform-specialized expertise.

According to Eric Schott, director of product marketing at EqualLogic, there is a presumption that specialized best practice knowledge is available only with a dedicated storage team. However, he notes, most IT departments do not have a dedicated storage team, yet they regularly deploy solutions.

David Scott, president and CEO of 3PAR, points out that utility storage, by definition, should be simple to manage. Scott says that a true utility storage architecture provides a simple, efficient, scalable infrastructure that reduces the need for a large scale or specialized storage management team.

“Utility storage architectures have been proven to reduce storage administration time and the associated costs by 90 percent or more, allowing the talents of senior administration staff to be leveraged more broadly,” says Scott. “A storage utility can scale massively without requiring a massive increase in storage management staff.”

Scott says the reason analysts suggest that dedicated storage teams are necessary is because they presume the use of legacy storage technologies that require a large variety of skills. He believes this is not the case with true utility storage architectures that are built from the ground up for utility computing. And some storage customers appear to agree.

“Utility storage has been a relief for our organization,” says Larry Sikon, CEO at Thomas Weisel Partners. “We can now apply 95 percent fewer resources to storage administration, and we are rid of the high price premiums associated with monolithic arrays.”

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