Storage opex savings via monitoring, analyzing and automating

Find out how to deliver operating expense (opex) savings to customers via tools that allow them to monitor, analyze and automate their storage and server environments.

When talking to your customers about doing more with less, the discussion can take two paths. In our last two articles we talked mostly about the first, easier path to take with customers: helping them do more with less capital. The second path leads down a more nebulous road: reducing storage operating expenses (opex).

There are three key ways to reduce opex: by monitoring, by analyzing and by automating. Monitoring and analyzing often go together. Monitoring tools like those from Aptare, Tek-Tools and Akorri can provide both current snapshot-type information as well as trending data for the storage environment and beyond. These types of products will allow your customers to observe the environment more quickly by using one tool to view the entire server and storage landscape. Monitoring the environment enables them to address problems proactively rather than reactively. As a result, there will be fewer of the drop-everything fire drills that many IT staffs are beleaguered by. This is the major operational payoff from these tools; being proactive is simply more efficient than reactive.

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An extension beyond simple monitoring, analyzing historical data for trends allows your customers to better optimize their environment for peak efficiency. Trending provides capex value as well. It determines whether CPU, memory, network and storage resources are all being used at the proper levels. There is a delicate balance that needs to be struck between over- and under-utilization of these resources. Using too much can lead to system failures and time spent trying to resolve the problem. Using too little of those resources, on the other hand, leads to wasted capital. Wasted capital translates to too much money spent on power and cooling. The tools help you see which systems can be consolidated, saving energy costs.

The final way to help customers cut opex is with automation tools for both storage hardware and servers, and one of the best places to start with is the virtual environment. Selling and implementing IT automation tools is often a big, time-consuming project. Focusing on the virtual infrastructure can break the task down to a feasible size. One tool to consider is VESI, an increasingly popular scripting application for VMware. Supported by the Virtualization EcoShell Initiative (which is sponsored by Vizioncore), VESI enables automation when coupled with products like Vizioncore's vControl C(it works with other products as well; it's a public domain scripting language) By eliminating the redundant tasks in a virtual environment, your customers will not only spend less time managing the environment, but they'll also have a lower chance of errors, which will save time in the long run.

Your customers are hearing a constant drum beat of "do more with less," and you, like most of your vendor partners, can answer the call easily on the capex side -- but that mostly amounts to doing more with the same storage resources. By taking the time to address the opex issues that customers are dealing with, they have a real chance of actually doing more with less -- and maybe even going home before the sun goes down.

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 October 2009

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