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Efficient storage provisioning: Capex and opex savings

In the last article, we talked about how deduplication and data reduction can help make your customers' storage hardware and operations more efficient. But deduplication isn't the only way you

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can accomplish that goal: Your customers waste a lot of time and resources dealing with storage provisioning. If you can provide solutions that allow them to provision faster -- or, better yet, have that process delegated -- you can save them a lot of time and reduce operating expenses (opex). If you can also provide a solution that provisions only the storage that's needed -- when it's needed -- you can save the customer a lot of capital expenses (capex) money.

Rapid provisioning is the domain of virtual systems. Server virtualization products, like those from VMware, Microsoft and Citrix, enable system administrators to carve out a new virtual server quickly. Similarly, rapid storage provisioning is enabled by the abstraction provided in storage virtualization solutions like those from 3PAR, NetApp and Compellent. These solutions save time (and operating expenses) because storage managers don't need to spend time figuring out which drives should be in which RAID group; they simply assign capacity to the server that needs it.

Storage virtualization also saves capex dollars because customers don't have to provision all the storage the application will need in its life upfront. Instead, using a technique called thin provisioning, even though the application thinks it has all the storage it will need, actual storage capacity is assigned to the server volume only as it is needed. This can easily reduce upfront storage capacity requirements by 25% or more.

The next step in storage provisioning is to make it more self-service. On the server virtualization side, companies like VMware have helped to make this easier with the use of templates that cut the time to create a virtual server. As we describe in "Getting opex savings from your virtual infrastructure," this has been enhanced by companies like Vizioncore, whose vControl product allows you to create self-service portals for customers to delegate part of the server creation process back to the application owners.

In the storage realm, this can be done using a capability called storage domains. Storage domains enable storage admins to delegate parts of storage to various business groups. For example, you could assign 1TB of storage to the Exchange administrators and then let them allocate it as they see fit. While this may seem a little reckless to let the manage storage, it is under the complete control of the storage administrator. The Exchange team in this example can't do anything that will hurt the storage functions of other departments, yet it saves the administrator handling storage provisioning the time needed to handle each and every little request, as well as the associated opex.

About the author

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the United States, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, George was chief technology officer at one of the nation's largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.

This was first published in September 2009

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