Archive for November, 2010

Yeah, I’m fat … but so is your data.

05/11/2010

Sixty Second Synopsis

Throwing technology at what is potentially a ‘people’ issue will have limited benefit long term.  We do need to deploy more intelligent and efficient storage devices, but we also need to help our users understand the negative impacts of unfettered data growth and storage. Transparent reporting of what users consume can help them understand what they are consuming/costing with a view to proactively reducing these costs.

Identity is a very important and, frequently, quite a private thing.

I have seen how our friends from NetApp try to hide the cringe when they hear someone incorrectly call them ‘NetApps’ and, whilst I don’t have this on good authority, I do wonder if Acadia’s recent decision to rebrand themselves as VCE had anything to do with constantly being called ‘Arcadia’.  I’ve no doubts that Michael Capellas would love to sell vBlocks as quickly as Philip Green sells t-shirts and jumpers, but there’s not getting away from the fact that they are different sales skillsets … not to mention price points!

Equally, I have lost count of the number of times I have had to explain to people why Computacenter has an ‘a’ in the middle and isn’t spelled with an ‘re’ at the end … even though we are a European company.  But Computacenter we are, and I am a proud member of the team ready to defend our name and strategy.

Now, anyone that knows me knows that I’m not exactly over the moon when someone calls me ‘Matt’ …  particularly when I introduce myself as Matthew, answer my email as Matthew, answer the phone as Matthew … you get the point.  There are a few personal reasons for this that I won’t bore you with here, but one of the big ones is that when I was younger I was called ‘fat Matt’.  Yes, kids can be cruel, and, whilst I have been blessed with a few attributes … svelte isn’t one of them.  Being reminded of always having to shop with my mother in the ‘husky’ section as a child coupled with the thought that if I get any bigger I may have my own gravitational pull is never fun..

I had two brief moments of sveltedom … once when I started university, and once just before I got married … but being married to a chef who’s family owns a butcher shop, having an interest in wine, and being able to resist everything but temptation was probably never going to end well.

I’ve blogged previously about my struggles with my weight as well as my efforts to lose weight permanently and, unfortunately, there is no getting away from a simple and stark fact … I’ve failed miserably.

The definition of insanity is to do the exact same thing you did before but expect different results so, from today, I’m making a big change.

Liposuction?  No, too expensive and doesn’t change the underlying issues.  Gastric band?  Somehow I doubt swallowing a rubber band is going to change things for the better.

Nope … I’m going public.  That’s right, from today you can access my food diary where I’m logging everything I eat, every bit of exercise I take … open, transparent, no limitations.  No excuses.

What’s this got to do with Data Storage & Protection?

I suppose I believe that a problem shared is a problem halved, and really I have no one other than myself to blame at present for not losing weight.  Perhaps by putting my diary online and making it open will help me to ‘control’ myself and, who knows … perhaps others with a similar issue will want to join me and we can make a bit of a contest out of this.  And it becomes that much more difficult to bend the truth when someone asks you how your diet is going when you know they can check for themselves!

The challenge is, just as I know that by remaining overweight I’m not doing my health any good and potentially shortening my life, so too we know that we are creating data at an alarming and, some would say, unsustainable rate.  Indeed, we’re creating as much data in three days as we did in all of 2003.  And much of the data growth is coming from ‘unstructured’ data … data that, in simple terms, is not likely to be business meaningful.

That this data creation is harmful to us and our world at large is open to examination and robust debate, and there is no doubt that storage vendors are doing everything they can to create ever more intelligent and efficient storage devices.

But this is only half the equation, in my opinion.

Short of shooting the users … not something I would condone, and I’m fairly certain it’s illegal just about, well, everywhere … we have to come up with a way in which we get users to be cognisant of the resources they consume and the costs thereof.  Perhaps if users know the cost of the data storage they are consuming they will think twice before saving yet another copy of the same PowerPoint, forward on a large spreadsheet they could have sent a link to, or send on that high-def video I’m sure is just as hilarious as you think it is.

But how?

1. Baseline the cost of workloads in the organisation.

By workload I mean the application, server, hypervisor [if applicable], network, and data storage required to provide the service to the user.  If you don’t know what it costs, how to break it down by user, et al … I know a nice service provider in the UK who would be more than happy to help!

2. Decide what and how you would charge a user for usage.

I have spoken to some customers who are spending upwards of 50% of their IT budgets on data storage, so I would be surprised if lowering storage costs wouldn’t be of interest … but what would you look to meter?  Cost per gigabyte stored?  Over a month?  Over a year?  You get the point.  And the tools on the market today let you set a cost per gigabyte as well as having LDAP hooks such that they can report exactly what a user is creating … and costing … historically as well as currently.

3. Make the costs per user/department/division transparent.

This isn’t about ‘naming and shaming’ users, but I do think that if users saw what they were costing the company in a ‘leader table’ with their peers perhaps they would be more inclined to reduce those costs through more diligent data management.  Data growth isn’t the fault of the IT department, and their simply deploying more intelligent devices won’t solve the problem alone in my opinion.

4. Make it a competition, with an award for the user/department/division who can reduce their costs the most.

Weight loss is all about targets and realistic expectations, but we all need a reward for good behaviour now and again to help keep us moving in the right direction.  Reducing the amount of data stored is most certainly of value to an organisation, and awards help to show and reward the progress being made.  We’re all in this together, after all, and simply shouting at IT to get better storage stuff or at purchasing to get a better price for the storage thingey isn’t going to solve the underlying issues.

As for me, time to go and take a brisk walk around the block so I can have a glass of wine or two with dinner.

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

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