Museum exhibits civilized storage

Sitting on a patio, a bottleneck often leads to a good thing, but in IT, it usually leads to a problem. The Canadian Museum of Civilization Corp. in Gatineau, Que. was finding bottlenecks in its storage and resource management systems a hindrance to doing business.

Gordon Butler, chief information technology officer for the museum corporation, which also includes Canada’s War Museum, said historically, storage was approached as a manual process with technicians eyeballing the system on a regular basis, hoping to find trends or bottlenecks before they occurred. But this imprecise science just wasn’t cutting it anymore. The company wanted something that would help it predict bottlenecks before they occurred.

For more than 10 years the museum has outsourced much of its IT management to various companies. Computer Associates International Inc. won a contract three years ago to manage desktops, servers and IT operations, so their technicians were the ones doing the eyeballing.

Butler said this relationship led the museum to speak with CA about what could be done to stop the bottlenecks, and more importantly, help the technicians predict when they might occur and deal with them more proactively.

Robert Lutton, regional manager for CA Technical Services with CA Canada in Mississauga, Ont., noted that Butler said he needed a way of controlling, trending and knowing how much disk space was available. “Together we said, ‘OK, this is the challenge and this is how we would solve it.'”

CA showed Butler its BrightStor Storage Resource Management (SRM) tool, which provided the museum’s staff and CA’s museum staff with a single management view of the enterprise storage resources through a Web-based portal.

“In reviewing (SRM’s) automation and predictive capabilities in terms of planning growth, we agreed it would be a good tool for the museum and they have since implemented it here,” Butler said.

“As a corporation, I’m not worrying about having to have someone eyeball that and looking for bottlenecks, and having the bottlenecks occur. These things are being predicted and seen long enough ahead of time that we can, in a controlled manner, manage it and be much more efficient both with the CA resources and our own resources.”

The greatest gain in efficiencies has actually been for CA, Butler said.

Lutton said CA’s technicians used the software to automate the tedious repetitive tasks. Lutton estimated that CA’s museum technical services staff expects to save about 900 person hours in storage administration costs over the next two years.

He said one of the challenges for the museum was to get a timely picture of what it had at a given time. “SRM will show you what servers are getting up to capacity, what users are using the most disk space, what technology is using storage the most. Maybe you’ve got megabytes and terabytes being used for e-mail. This will help you understand what’s the natural evolution and trending over the last few months.”

Butler said the tool has given his team a much clearer picture of not only resource use, but trending in terms of potential bottlenecks. This allows them to plan procurement more accurately. “It’s allowing us to see spikes, which were unexpected and allows us to identify them before they become operational issues and rectify them if it’s not just a case of inefficient use of resources.”

Butler said he would continue looking at other products that would see the museum’s history of outsourcing grow. “A long time ago, senior management at the museum recognized that we were not an IT shop, not should we try to be a world-class IT shop, and that we could better leverage our capabilities with strategic partners,” Butler said.