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Storage efficiency: Go beyond cost savings

You’re feeling it full force — the impact of the economic downturn — and so are your customers. For the last two quarters, conversations have turned from “How do I expand?” to “How do I contract and cut costs?” Resellers, in the race to find projects and products that can help their customers reduce costs, also need to find solutions that will increase efficiency.

Most cost savings storage solutions — inline compression, data deduplication and even archiving — all involve putting more data in the same or less space. But even with these tools in place, your customers still have to manage an ever-increasing volume of data. Putting more of it into the same space does not make the management of it easier. Even archiving – it puts more data into a different, less expensive space and, while it does reduce some primary storage operational costs, it introduces an archive process that needs to be managed and monitored.

In most IT shops, all this is happening while staffs are shrinking, whether through layoffs or attrition. “Do more with less” has become “Do a lot more with a lot less.”

To address these issues, there are two things that you should be doing with your customers. First, you should offer tools that will make your customers’ operations more efficient and, second, you should talk to your customers about outsourcing the IT overflow to you. In this entry, we will look at increasing their efficiency.

In a recent article on Storage Switzerland, “Maximizing Your Storage Cost Cutting Efforts,” we discussed the importance of using storage management software tools prior to, during and after any projects that were undertaken to optimize storage utilization. Doing so will effectively allow customers to establish a baseline, manage the optimization and report on the delivered savings.

Having such a tool in place will be helpful for you as well. Establishing a baseline will give both you and your customer something to shoot for as you later begin a cost cutting effort. In fact, having storage management software in place first may actually change the priorities for you and the customer; the software may indicate that a different technology than what’s planned for storage optimization would provide a faster route to cost savings.

For example, products like Tek-Tools’ Storage Profiler or Virtual Instruments’ VirtualWisdom can identify VMDK images in your VMware environment that are not using anything close to their assigned capacity. You can resize those images, freeing up, possibly, terabytes of disk space.

These tools will also address the real concern with driving down storage costs by increasing storage utilization: As users decrease purchases by using more and more of their free space, they also eliminate some of the headroom they’re accustomed to having. By using storage management tools that go beyond reporting to actually monitor in real time, customers can stay on top of those volumes and be able to make critical adjustments as needed.

Helping your customers increase their storage efficiency not only gives you another project to work on with them but will also help them navigate their way through the next few years.

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation’s largest storage integrators.

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