Take Control of Your Storage Costs While Improving Your IT Services

6 minute read
Storage as a Service

Your company’s storage spending may feel like it’s out of control.

Questions like this may arise: Why are we spending so much on storage? Are my competitors spending this much? Why is our storage spending increasing at a faster rate than our company’s revenue?

The volume of business data is growing exponentially. According to eBay, worldwide business data doubles every 1.2 years. An Avanade study revealed that this influx of data is putting a massive strain on IT infrastructures, as 55 percent of respondents reported a slowdown in their IT systems due to data overload.

Despite this strain, today’s businesses must be “always on” to stay competitive. IT organizations struggle to maintain service levels while keeping up with emerging business demands and massive data growth. They often find gaps, as their once stable architectures evolve into a collection stranded assets and investments that are difficult to manage.

Meanwhile, the business often views internal IT as inhibiting — rather than enabling — its success. Long provisioning times may cause business units to look to outside service providers to meet their needs. Application owners also may request more storage than they need, to avoid lengthy provisioning and acquisition cycles. However, this “storage hoarding” drives up your IT costs and lowers return on investment.

The good news is your IT organization has the opportunity to improve its level of service while reigning in costs. With a service oriented approach to supporting the business, your IT organization can become a valuable service provider and regain a key role in making the business more agile and competitive.

Structuring Your Storage to an “As-a-Service” Model

Many organizations today are considering a blended approach to internal vs. external services — a hybrid approach with mission-critical data and applications on-premise and more flexible applications in the cloud. For example, human resources, sales, email and collaboration tools might be good candidates for the cloud.

When migrating towards a hybrid approach, you will require a partner who has experience transforming IT organizations into business enablers. They can help you navigate the complexities and interdependencies of deploying a service-oriented design. In some cases, making use of an alternate data center can help you accelerate this transformation by providing a clean slate to start with, unfettered by the current infrastructure and processes that are difficult to work around. In either approach, there are basic considerations that must be addressed.

Here are six more points to consider when becoming your organization’s trusted storage provider:

1. Understand your business strategy and corporate vision.

The biggest gaps in IT strategies often occur when translating business requirements into technical requirements. Develop a strategic intent map, where you map the business vision and strategy to the business requirements. Then, map these to your IT technical requirements and desired service capabilities.

Initially classify your desired services into different levels — such as gold, silver and bronze. These levels can range from high-availability/high-performance services to lower-cost utility services. The lower-level services can be contained to capacity and availability more closely aligned to commoditized services. You can choose the right service level based on workload criticality, performance requirements and data criticality.

Your mapping should encompass the entire technology stack — not just your storage services. Although these services are typically managed as separate work streams, they are all part of a single transformation program.

2. Profile your current service capabilities.

Profile your operational practices, workload demands and service capabilities. These profiles will form your “current state” which will be used as basis for the formal gap analysis. The findings from the gap analysis will help you prioritize your recommendations in developing a strategic roadmap to implement storage-as-a-service (STaaS).

3. Perform a gap analysis and create a roadmap.

When you perform a gap analysis, map the business requirements to the required capabilities and compare those to your existing service capabilities. You should also conduct “voice of the customer” feedback sessions with the appropriate stakeholders. This will help you validate and finalize your findings. Collaborating with stakeholders provides insight for building a roadmap and prioritizing your action plans.

4. Define your service catalogue.

Once you understand the required capabilities, you will need to map these to service attributes that, in turn will be mapped into service levels or groupings. You need to keep in mind how these services traverse the technology stack. The requirements may affect more than one layer of the infrastructure

The new service program will consist of workstreams that underpin your strategic roadmap. Managing these workstreams calls for communication across layers of your organization. This ensures tight collaboration between stakeholders. It also requires a broad range of expertise, to ensure that all workstreams map to the desired service capabilities. These will ultimately lead to a more value-centric approach to service criticality and workload placement.

5. Implement your STaaS capabilities.

Be ruthless when you standardize your service capabilities and infrastructure design. Eliminate as many outliers and exceptions as possible. The more you standardize, the more consistently you will manage and provision services. This will make your IT organization more agile and allow you to deliver a better customer experience.  

Once you standardize across your IT layers, you’ll be better prepared to automate your services (walk before you run). Providing on-demand self-service capability occurs after the business starts to consistently consume the newly deployed services. This gives your demand generation and provisioning processes time to mature. However, some processes within the lower layers of your provisioning stack can be automated sooner than later — especially with a virtualized infrastructure.

6. Monitor your STaaS environment and implement a continual improvement plan.

The business adage: you can’t manage what you can’t measure fits perfectly here.

Deploying capacity and performance management tools is critical to your ongoing success. When you view these tools in a single dashboard, you can easily manage, monitor and meter all of your storage resources.

Resource management is key to meeting your service levels agreements (SLAs) and ensuring you can scale. It also gives you visibility into service consumption, so you can apply chargebacks and budget for greater capacity as needed.

Many IT organizations are turning to external services for reporting and oversight of their environments. This ensures comprehensive and consistent reporting, so you can monitor your return on investment.

Should You Store Your Data and Applications in the Cloud?

The amount of global data is expected to grow 40 percent per year, while IT spending only increases by 5 percent per year. With data costs increasing faster than IT budgets can keep up, STaaS helps you provide storage at costs that are in line with what the business requires, helping to align your data and application workloads with the appropriate infrastructure and level of service.

By deploying the STaaS model, you can:

  • Regain a valuable service provider status within your business organization

  • Improve your IT management and gain visibility into your storage service capabilities

  • Reduce your total cost of ownership (TCO)

  • Simplify operational complexity

  • Improve customer satisfaction

  • Enable the business to be more agile and responsive to demand

  • Help the business be more competitive

  • Gain insights into and control over your resource consumption

Moving to a service-oriented approach and employing a hybrid model could drive significant benefits into your storage environment. However, STaaS is only one part of the journey to becoming a service-oriented IT organization. You may start with storage to achieve efficiency wins. But ultimately it is your entire IT infrastructure services stack that will be part of the transformation.

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