A resilient storage facility design infrastructure is made up of various hardware, software and network technologies combined with best practices and procedures. Additional value-add components are the technologies and techniques used to support it, including the physical storage facilities to house and manage IT resources, applications and services.
For smaller shops a storage facility environment could be a small dedicated or shared room, or closet, while larger environments may employ a formal room for computers, applications, file and data servers, and storage and networking devices. In even larger shops multiple computer rooms or data centers may be required to house technology assets across multiple facilities and locations.
Storage facility design power tools and services
Common to all of these storage facilities, regardless of size, is the need for sufficient and "clean" power. This means that at a minimum, computers, printers, network switches and other devices are plugged into surge protectors or surge-isolated outlets, or into a battery backup uninterruptable power supply (UPS). Traditionally speaking UPS systems have been for the rich and famous, however, small entry-level solutions for SOHO and SMB environments are made available by vendors including APC.
Storage facility space, cooling and ventilation services
Another common need for storage facility environments in all size shops is some form of cooling and ventilation, along with space to physically locate equipment. For small offices and home offices, that could involve a table or shelf in a coffee copy room or a more secured closet or equipment room. If you do not already do so, when offered a tour of a customer's computer room, data center or wiring closet, leverage the chance to look around for future project opportunities.
Consult with your clients or prospects about where they are housing IT equipment, what are they doing for backup, and alternate power, cooling, cabinets and cabling as a means of accessorizing and wrapping more service and product around a solution.
Networking and cabling accessories
If you have ever bought home entertainment electronics, it's extremely rare that a sales consultant does not ask if you need any cables, power surge protectors, speaker or cabinetry not to mention some blank CDs or DVDs among other accessories.
Over the years having worked in IT organizations for different companies and later as a vendor, it was rare to see a quote for servers, storage or networking equipment that did not include adapters, cables, optics, transceivers, media or some other accessory as part of a standard quote. Granted these items would often be deleted before final purchase or in situations where a one-time, rock-bottom lowest price was being quoted.
Cable management, patch panel and conveyance systems are other areas for channel providers to add value. If you are not already doing so, include accessories and service in your proposals and remind or educate your customers of your solution offerings every chance you get.
Storage facility and design services
Depending on the size, scope and scale of your customers environments, you can provide facility assessments and design services directly or in partnership with a facility specialist for new and data center remodeling projects. By partnering with specialists, you can expand the areas of service and coverage for your customers without incurring the overhead of having the specialty in-house. There are many different firms that specialize in data center design and renovation, as well as trade specialists with data center and IT experience for electrical power, heating ventilation and cooling (HVAC), plumbing, fire detection and suppression, among others.
Furthermore, in lieu of customers investing in asset management software, you can assist with ongoing physical asset management and tracking, or sell them the asset management technologies they need.
Specific areas to offer value-added servers and solutions pertaining to technology environments include:
- Facilities and physical environment
- Power and HVAC
- Technologies and tools
For environments with limited available electrical power or lack of floor space, your opportunities are to consolidate power and floor-space-intensive technologies with smaller, denser, power-friendly storage, server and network solutions. You may also leverage remote or secondary sites using replication and data mirroring technology for workload balancing or remote backup and data protection. Block (iSCSI) and file (NAS) clustered storage solutions can be used to physically distribute storage resources in different locations of a computer room, building or campus where extra electrical power and floor space exists.
Storage facility assessment and maintenance services
Establish site and facility assessment services to identify new technologies and technology replacement programs. Such services may also involve data migrations or wrapping security (logical and physical) assessments around hardware, software and networking products to determine threat risks and business impact assessment for business continuance and disaster recovery. Given compliance and retention regulations, you can help clients ensure data protection with long-term storage of removable media, as well.
Electrical power, cooling and ventilation considerations that can be incorporated into solution offerings include regular preventive battery and UPS maintenance and testing, energy audits -- including measuring quality of electrical power and ensuring appropriate voltage, cycle, amperage, grounding and phase -- and periodic generator testing (with a workload) to ensure alternative power and replenished fuels supplies.
Small shop considerations
Similar to older and larger UPS devices for large scale and expensive deployment, there are new lower cost entry-level generators for smaller environments, even small office and home office needs. Working with your local electrical power utilities, you could put together incentive programs to take to your customers to help off-set new hardware upgrades and acquisitions with energy credits or other creative marketing programs.
You may also want to help customers facilitate and manage disposition of old IT equipment, including secure erasure and destruction of media (tapes, optical and disk drives) to meet Hazmat and RoHS regulations.
You can learn more about habitats for data infrastructure including DAS, SAN, NAS, and other technologies and design techniques in my book Resilient Storage Networks -- Designing Flexible Scalable Data Infrastructures (Elsevier).
About the author: Greg Schulz is founder of the independent storage analyst and consulting firm the StorageIO group and author of the book Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier).
This was first published in February 2007