IT Focus Area: Infrastructure Optimization
February 10, 2016
The Top 5 IT Storage Trends of 2016
If you’re in IT, you may be tempted to add “firefighter” to your business cards.
IT professionals find that large portions of their time go toward resolving emergency situations or “putting out fires.” As depicted in the chart below, 70 percent of IT budgets are dedicated to keeping the lights on. Out of the remaining budget, 20 percent goes toward new software while 10 percent buys new hardware.
Devoting most of your resources to maintenance leaves little time or money for innovation. It also limits how much value your IT organization can offer the business.
Image source: EMC
Also, while we are starting to see some convergence of IT functions, IT organizations still primarily operate in independent silos that are all competing for a small innovation budget. It’s vital to optimize the 70 percent of your budget that you use “keeping the lights on”—thereby freeing up your additional budget to increase the amount of share that each IT silo gets for innovation.
Many IT organizations fail to innovate because they are very cautious with their innovation budget. When their three-year refresh cycle comes up, they don’t examine how their technology will serve the business in the coming years. Instead of refreshing everything, they purchase smaller pieces to fit specific needs and hang on to their old assets longer.
Being cautious may seem like a wise financial choice. However, if you simply maintain the status quo, you won’t be able to keep up. The business landscape is changing too rapidly, and your competitors are using new technologies to gain market advantages.
You will also have trouble supporting bi-modal IT and running your apps in Mode 2. Mode 1 apps are static and fail to provide the business with speed and agility. If you don’t use agile, cloud-based applications, your IT organization may not be relevant in a few years. It will cost way too much to keep your legacy apps running, and vendors such as Oracle and Microsoft may not support your apps in a few years.
5 Enterprise IT Storage Trends That Will Impact Your Data Center
Here are the top five enterprise storage trends that we see today. These trends will likely impact your data center in the next 12 to 18 months:
1. Optimizing costs
As the amount of data in your organization rapidly increases, you may feel like you can’t purchase storage fast enough. However, buying storage without a plan can push your costs through the roof.
You may also spend too much to maintain legacy storage systems that aren’t agile enough to keep pace with changing business demands. To get a handle on your budget, start by lowering your maintenance costs. Then, you won’t need to spend 70 percent of your IT budget keeping the lights on. You can move more of your budget towards innovation and driving value for the business.
Storage-as-a-Service (STaaS) can also help you optimize your storage spend. Since it’s cloud-based, you can quickly provision storage as you need it. You’ll also avoid the high costs of over-provisioning as your storage capacity will align with what the business is using.
2. Enabling innovation
According to an Ipswitch study, one of the top IT fears is new technology. Although businesses expect IT organizations to innovate, IT managers are wary of bringing in new tools that can help them do so. IT managers are concerned about the downtime and lost business that can occur when implementing new technology.
However, not using new technology can also cause performance issues―leading to lost business. It’s a catch-22.
Many of today’s best storage options are new technologies. Failing to move to one of these options can hurt your performance.
One way to drive innovation is to expand your internal IT skills.
Many IT professionals have experience with legacy technologies but aren’t as familiar with new storage and cloud technologies. This lack of expertise makes it challenging for your IT organization to innovate and move quickly.
With the right skills, you can be more confident when you bring in new technologies and storage.
Craft a vision for where you want your IT organization to go and the skills you need to get there. For example, training can expand your in-house skills, you so can take advantage of new technologies such as flash storage. Outsourcing to managed service providers can also help you gain critical IT skills when you can’t develop these skills in house.
3. Managing risks
If you don’t plan for growth, you’ll rush to purchase storage as your capacity runs out. This can cause you to fill your environment with storage solutions from different vendors. The more vendors in your environment, the more security and compatibility issues you will face.
Standardizing your IT services allows you to quickly provision storage while keeping your environment secure. Perform a SWOT analysis on vendors to determine if they are a safe bet. That way, when you need to boost your capacity, you can choose from pre-approved vendors.
4. Improving performance
When it comes to storage, IT organizations have two big performance issues.
Many IT organizations don’t plan ahead and eventually max out their storage. This leads to performance issues that can impact your ability to serve customers.
Other IT organizations over-provision storage so they can meet performance metrics. However, this results in paying too much for storage that you’re not using.
As an IT service provider, you can’t afford to max out your storage. You’ll get complaints from customers and the business if things don’t perform as they should. However, overspending on storage to ensure performance isn’t the answer.
You can find a balance between performance and capacity by re-architecting your storage network and placing applications on the appropriate storage tier. You may also need to review and possibly change your processes, so you can deploy apps faster and shorten your time to market.
Deeper, broader reporting and capacity planning can also help you understand and improve your performance.
As an IT service provider, you need to look at the business case for flash storage and present solutions that will provide the business with value and a competitive edge.
5. Managing growth
Many IT organizations don’t know how much storage they have, how they are using it, and when they will run out of it. When you run out of space, you can no longer grow.
Performance and capacity planning can help you prepare for growth so that you won’t be caught off guard and use up all of your storage. Planning will help you see exactly when you will run out of capacity, so you’ll know how much to budget for new storage.
This also puts the buying power in your hands, as you’ll have time to shop around for the best storage options. You won’t need to purchase storage from the first vendor you find.
Pros and Cons of Storage Options
When it comes to storage, you have a lot of options. The right choice―or choices―will depend on factors such as your business needs, budget, and plans for growth. Here’s a quick overview of six of the most popular storage options:
1. Flash storage
Pros: The price of flash storage has significantly dropped in the past decade while its performance has greatly increased. This makes it an attractive storage option – especially if performance is critical for you.
Cons: Flash storage may not work with your current data center technology. You may need to purchase specialty software or replace your architecture if you want to use flash storage.
2. Converged and hyper-converged storage
Pros: Converged and hyper-converged storage are good options if you’re switching from traditional methods of silo management and want to simplify your workload deployments. They are built for capacity, performance, and optimization. These types of storage are also recommended for organizations that are budget-conscious and risk-adverse.
Cons: You can scale converged storage. However, hyper-converged storage is hard to scale and customize. For example, if you need more storage but don’t need more compute power, you’ll still need to buy both. This can cause you to pay for services that you’re not using.
3. Software-defined storage
Pros: Software-defined storage implements a layer of virtual networks and policies on top of your physical network, which eliminates your need to configure hardware. This makes software-defined storage a good option if you need low-cost storage for virtualized workloads.
Cons: But software-defined storage isn’t for everyone. It’s best for organizations that have a programmable infrastructure. Another con is that the technology has not matured. If you’re risk-adverse, you might want to wait for the technology to mature before you invest in it.
4. Traditional storage refresh
Pros: A traditional refresh makes sense if you are risk adverse―or if you lack the business app requirements or budget to move to the cloud. You can also consider NAS hybrid arrays with flash, as they balance costs with storage usage appropriately.
Cons: A traditional storage refresh locks you into a Mode 1 style of processing for its entire lifecycle. This makes it difficult for you to innovate, as your budget is still tied to keeping the lights on. You also will have a hard time taking advantages of new technologies that can make you more agile.
5. Backup and data protection
Pros: Choosing virtual or physical LTO solution might be an option when you have a limited budget and are risk-adverse. When you go with a traditional backup method, you can save 15X – 80X the costs of a new, real-time, storage solution.
Cons: As your data continues to grow exponentially, it will become a huge burden to back everything up. You’ll need additional time and resources to protect your organization. A new approach to backups or archiving can reduce the time you spend managing your backup environment. It will also lower your IT costs so that you can redirect funds towards innovation.
6. Managed service for storage and backup
Pros: Managed services are another option if you’re concerned about your risks and costs. A managed service provider can improve your performance while making it easy for you to scale your storage as your needs change.
Cons: Some people in your organization may think that you are losing control of your environment if you use a managed service provider for backups and recovery. But the reality is that the managed service frees up time and resources. This allows you to focus on the areas that will drive the most value for the business, such as innovation.
An IT Service Broker Can Provision Storage Quickly and Maintain High-Performance Levels
Your business data is growing exponentially. An Avanade study revealed that this influx of data is putting a huge strain on IT infrastructures, as 55 percent of respondents said that data overload is slowing down their systems.
Dedicating 70 percent of your IT budgets towards keeping the lights on won’t help you get a handle on all of this data.
To innovate, you must become an IT service broker who quickly provisions storage and maintains high performance levels. This will allow you to keep up with data demands, be more agile, and drive value back to the business.
Leveraging some or all six of the above storage options―with a view of your business needs―will put you on the path to becoming an IT service broker and increasing your value to the organization.