For more storage, manage what you have

Users and applications constantly demand more server storage capacity, which often prompts company’s to buy more disk arrays. But at least one IT administrator has found that the disk space is already inside the data centre – it’s just poorly managed.

That’s what David Reimer, project lead at Dallas-based Excel Communications Inc., argued here yesterday at Computerworld US’ annual Premier 100 conference.

“In reality, we have a lot of [disk] space already,” he said. “We just need to know how to manage it.”

According to Reimer, Excel, the US$1.4 billion subsidiary of Montreal-based BCE Inc., was in the midst of a server consolidation effort while concurrently designing a $3 million 40TB storage-area network to cut costs and improve capacity. To help Excel evaluate the company’s storage at the file level, Reston, Va.-based Precise-WQuinn Inc. loaned out its storage resource management application, Storage Central, for 90 users, Reimer said.

What he discovered was eye-opening.

By using the auditing features in Storage Central, Reimer found that users had violated company policies, the law and common sense. For example, users were storing pornography on server disks, as well as copyrighted MP3 music files. Users had also squirrelled away unlicensed software. In addition, some had backed up the entire content of their PC desktop drives.

That knowledge convinced Reimer that storage capacity management was a better path to trod than adding disk arrays that can cost up to $17,000 apiece.

Excel adopted flexible server storage policies for desktop users and clearly communicated the new rules to users. Reimer said the company created a four-tier server classification system that identified storage policies for corporate, departmental, revenue and community servers, which guided each user on how to treat information housed on each server’s array. For example, users can only store between 256MB and 1.5GB of desktop data on community servers.

Excel was also able to use Storage Central to apply policies for archiving files based on their creation, last-accessed and last-modified dates.

“We know storage is going to grow. It used to be megabytes, then gigabytes, and now it’s terabytes. Tomorrow, it will be petabytes,” Reimer said. “Just adding more, expensive disks by themselves is not the answer.”