Shoot the users.

Are geeks born or are they made?  Is technoweenism (def. ‘of to or pertaining to being a technoweenie’; see Matthew Yeager) genetic or is it environmental?

To be sure, I’ve been a geek for as long as I can remember.  My first video game was Star Trek on an IBM mainframe whilst my father did the reel to reel backups.  Seriously.  Try as I might, I never did beat Khan nor the Klingons.  Khaaaan!  My father tells me that he was once called in to a parent/teacher conference to enquire where I had got the copy of Newsweek which I was boring the kids to death within the playground.  Laugh if you must, but the Soviets shooting down KAL007 was a hugely important incident and led to Ronald Reagan ordering the military to allow the use of the US GPS systems by civilians.  And I still believe to this day that’s waaay more important than kickball.

So, nothing much has changed although now I bore people at dinner parties as opposed to the playground, my video games tend to be of the PS3 variety, and instead of reading about planes I’d much rather be flying them.

But, as big a geek as I may be, I’ve never really been a petrol head.  Indeed, I hate driving and view it as a colossal waste of time …time which could be spent doing far more productive things.  As such, I don’t really care too much about cars.  This isn’t to say I don’t love Top Gear or would turn away a Maserati Quattroporte, but in the absence of someone giving me one I can’t really justify £100k on a hunk of metal …okay, a terribly fast hunk of metal with lovely leathery bits …and so plan to drive my humble BMW 320D until the wheels fall off.

Now, I like car maintenance almost as much as I like being called ‘Matt’ or ‘reseller’ but BMW have done something very clever.  They’ve put what amounts to a countdown timer in the car so that as the miles increase, the car tells you how many more you can travel before the next service.  Genius.  And what happens if you go over the service threshold?  It starts counting the miles in negative digits and ‘bongs’ every time you get in or out to remind you that you really must get a service organised.

Gentle nagging works, but the simplistic countdown is what drives me (no pun intended) to organise services regularly.  And at £180 or more a go, I reckon BMW continues to make a tidy profit from me.

What’s this got to do with data storage and protection?

I wrote in my year end post that, along with the march to the virtualised datacentre, subscription models would change the way we consume just about everything.

One of the questions I inevitably get asked by customers when discussing optimised storage and virtualised datacentres is so what?  What business benefit do I get by deploying the elements of optimised storage such as thin provisioning, storage virtualisation, storage compression and so on.

It is a fair question and customers are right to ask it.  Let’s be clear, whilst I am a geek, deploying technology for technology’s sake is not something I would ever advocate.  Nor would I advocate just buying more ‘stuff’ in the absence of a proper strategy.  Frankly, this is partially the cause that we ended up with unsolved Rubik’s cubes for infrastructures.

Now, whilst we will publish TCO metrics and projected cost savings for optimised infrastructures and/or virtualised datacentres …and in some cases underwrite these costs …one of the unintended consequences of optimising/virtualising a datacentre is it gives the IT guys room to breathe.

Why room to breathe?  By automating certain datacentre tasks and removing the need to deploy more data storage for even a few weeks …although it often ends up to be months …the IT folks get time to manage data.  The elephant in most datacentres is not whether we should virtualise or optimise but, rather, how we manage data.  This is one of the biggest questions I get from customers …‘How do we manage our data?  How do we keep our internal customers from creating more?’ and I generally give them the exact same answer.

Shoot the users.

Not trying to be flippant, but seriously …no users, no more data.  Job done, crack tubes.

‘But we can’t shoot the users!’

Indeed.  So how do we manage the data if users are going to keep creating it?  Yes, there are technical solutions available in archiving and data deduplication, but why throw technology at a people problem?  Why create the data in the first place?

What if we gave the users a yearly and monthly subscription for data storage?

Try phoning your mobile phone company when you’ve used up your minutes and demanding more now and for free because hey …your moby is fundamental to your job!

The challenge is not in having adequate tools for data management …three of the best are , in my opinion…

  1. Storage Fusion for enterprise data infrastructure.  SF is brilliant at showing you exactly what the storage devices are doing; how much raw storage is deployed/consumed, how much power they’re consuming, how the storage is tiered, and so on.
  2. Symantec CommandCentral Storage.  Symantec CommandCentral is fantastic for managing infrastructures comprised of more than one storage vendor, and lets you manage storage down to the file level.
  3. Northern Storage Suite.  I really love Northern because it has robust LDAP hooks, which is geekspeak for ‘it analyses the data and tells me who, specifically, created it’.  Imagine being able to run reports to tell you which users and departments are creating the most duplicate data, data which isn’t accessed often if ever …and what they are likely to create in future …and you can see why I love these guys.

But the tools are only half the solution.  The other half is what we do with the information.  In the past we’d try to nicely ask the user to delete duplicate or old data.  We’ve even tried ‘quotas’ which rarely, if ever, work.

In 2010 I think we should be asking ‘How much space does a user need and how can I build a subscription model to monitor …and report to them …their usage.’

Shoot the users?  A bit harsh.  But perhaps charge them after they use up their subscription is the answer to user managed data.

Have a great weekend, and please contact me if I can be of any assistance in helping you manage data.

I promise I won’t shoot your users.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

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