Making Sense of the Commodity We Call Storage

Storage continues to be a commodity IT spending item that is readily affordable and easy to obtain, whether it is provisioned on premises or in the cloud. Cheap storage has enabled IT to obtain storage capacity at will, with little need to analyze overhead or explain budget exceptions to CFOs.

Is there a tipping point where storage (and how much you’re paying for it) matters any more?

“Storage doesn’t usually make headline news, but it is an essential element of all enterprise applications. Yet many in the hybrid space are not thinking about or preparing for growth, change, and rising costs related to storage,” said Jon Cyr, VP of Product at Virtana. Cyr went on to say that, “Storage decisions can have a significant impact on cloud cost and performance.”

Virtana, which focuses on IT performance optimization and cloud management, conducted a survey of 350 IT leaders on hybrid cloud storage in January. In the survey, 94% of respondents reported that their cloud storage costs were rapidly rising, and 54% said that cloud storage costs were rising at higher rates than other cloud costs. “The survey results confirm that cloud storage costs continue to rise while also showing there is no single prevailing strategy to decide what storage to put in the cloud and what to keep on premises,” according to Virtana.

With companies on average spending less than 7% of their annual budgets on IT, and research firm Gartner estimating that over half of IT spending was going to the cloud, perhaps “engine room” items like storage are not top of mind.

Storage associations don’t like to hear this kind of news, and neither do advocates for storage management certifications, including me. However, the IT reality is that storage gets swept into the larger arena of how applications and systems are deployed, and what resources that these applications and systems consume. When elements like over-provisioning come up — which one third of IT leaders feel they are overpaying for — trouble-shooting this type of cost overrun requires analyzing the entire provisioning process. The analysis encompasses systems, processing, communications and storage. Of these, storage is probably of the least concern.

Nevertheless, there still are reasons to care about and evaluate storage. Consider these scenarios:

  1. By looking at storage usage, you can assess which applications are barely or not using it. This should lead you to ask whether the systems or apps committed to unused storage are necessary.
  2. As part of internal and cloud cost evaluations, storage, like processing, should be optimized. This could entail assessing whether your most rapidly processed data and apps are running on the fastest storage, and whether your seldom accessed data is housed in cheaper, slower, and even cold storage.

  3. Whether your storage is on premises or in the cloud, it must be secured and not neglected. If there are regulatory, compliance or governance requirements for the safekeeping of data on storage devices, the storage, compliance, and security groups should work together to assure requirements are met as part of a larger corporate risk management strategy.

  4. A major pain point for organizations is resource use associated with containerization on the cloud. When data and apps are containerized, there is a tendency to over provision for both. This is a good starting point in looking for cloud storage and processing waste.

  5. Data retention policies, and the deletion of data that is outdated or never used lag in almost every enterprise. IT simply does not get out to all the users to discuss which data should be retained, and for how long. This causes unwanted (and unused) data to sit in storage for years, with costs continuing to roll in.

  6. Mission-critical data should be backed up in multiple cloud-based or on premises sites as part of your disaster recovery and business continuation plan.

Finally, “Having a good data storage strategy in place is no longer a luxury for today’s organizations,” said Kal Rana of edge provider vXhange. “A data storage strategy doesn’t just outline how a company stores its data, but also how it makes use of that information.”

That makes sense, and it is all the more reason why sites should stay as focused on storage as they are on other IT resources when they think about IT optimization and the dollars they are spending.

What to Read Next:

Understanding the Benefits of Computational Storage

Storage Pros Move to Data Roles

Storage Should Not be Treated Like an Unloved Part of IT