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Day 4 - The Last Sessions and My Final Thoughts
Wrapping up my post-week coverage of the [Data Center 2010 conference], I stuck through the end to get my money's worth at this conference. As the morning went on, it became obvious many people booked flights or started their weekends prior to the official 3:15pm ending of the last day.
Strategies for Data Life Cycle Management
I prefer the term "Information Lifecycle Management", but the two analysts presenting decided to use DLM instead. Let's start with the biggest challenge faced by the audience.
The problem is not meeting Service Level Agreements (SLA) but Service Level Expectations. When looking at the real business value of IT, you should link IT strategy to business outcomes and directives, align with your CIO's pet initiatives, and position storage as a technology supporting IT Directors goals. Here were the top five goals:
Curtailing Storage Sprawl
Compliance and e-Discovery
Improving Service Levels for Data Availability and Protection
Moving to Cloud Computing
The analysts reviewed both a "Tops Down" and "Bottoms Up" approach. They recommend what they call an "Enterprise Infomration Archive" (what IBM calls Smart Archive, by the way) that provides a better understanding of all data.
No greater lie has been told than "Storage is Cheap". Currently, only 10 percent of companies hvae a formal "deletion policy", but the analysts predict this will rise to 50 percent by 2013.
The "Bottoms Up" approach is focused on modernizing the data center at the storage technology level. There has been a resurgence in interest in ILM solutions, implementing storage tiers, and storage efficiency features like thin provisioning, data deduplication and real-time compression. Cloud Computing can help off-load this effort to someone else.
ILM provides real business value, such as reduce costs, improve quality of service, and mitigate risks. The analysts felt that if you are not partnering with a storage vendor that offers five essential technologies, you should probably change vendors. What are those five essential technologies? I am glad you asked. Watch this [YouTube video] to find out.
Getting the Most From Your Storage Vendor Relationships
The analyst mentioned there are two kinds of storage vendors. Suppliers that sell you solutions, and Partners that work with you to develop unique functionality. He offered some advice:
Allow vendors to analyze and profile your workloads, such as IOPS, MB/sec bandwidth, average blocksize, and so on.
Review your Service level agreements (SLAs), procedures and asset management strategies
Identify upgrade risks, conversion costs, and unintended consequences
Take advantage of vendor engineers and technical staff for skills transfer, best practices, industry trends, and competitive comparisons
Explore different solutions and approaches
Avoid big pitfalls by negotiating and locking in upgrade and maintenance costs, scheduling conversions, and getting any guarantees in writing.
Asking the audience how they currently interact with their storage vendors:
The analyst's "Do's and Don'ts" were good advice for nearly any kind of business negotiation:
Keep language simple and enforceable
Limit diagnostic time
Be reasonble with rolling time-lines
Design remedies that keep you whole and are implementable in your environment
Make remedies punitive
Use qualitative measures
Rely on vendor's metrics only
Set terms that expire during life of system
Let the vendor provide best practices after installation, set reasonable expectations, schedule regular reviews, and insist on cross-vendor cooperation, have zero tolerance for finger-pointing between vendors. Depreciate storage equipment quickly.
This was the last session of the conference, a workshop to deal with irrational behavior during unexpected events that could disrupt or impact business operations. In the exercise, each table was a fictitious company, and the 7-8 people sitting at each table represented different department heads who had to make recommendations to upper management on how to deal with each disastrous situation presented to us. Decisions had to be made with limited and incomplete information. Each table had to come to a consensus on each action, and a single spokesperson from each table would present the recommendations. Winners of each round got prizes.
Plenty of coffee, not enough juice. Power and Cooling were top of mind. The rooms were cold, designed for people wearing suits I imagine. I enjoyed plenty of hot coffee throughout the event. Everyone complained that their smartphones and iPads were running out of electricity. The conference had "recharge" stations with plugs for all kinds of different phones, but the Micro-USB plugs that I needed for my Samsung Vibrant, and the apple connections needed by everyone else's iPhones and iPads, were always taken. I remember when you could charge your cell phone once a week, because you hardly used it to make calls, and now that they can be used to follow Twitter feeds, surf websites, and other actions between sessions, power runs out quickly.
Information Overload. I was one of those following tweets on the HootSuite app on my Android-based smart phone. I was able to meet some of the people I have exchanged blog comments and tweets. One told me that his tweets was his way of taking notes, so that his trip report would be done when he got back to the office. I used to write trip reports also, before blogging and tweeting.
The mood was positive. Overall, all the rival competitors got along well. I had friendly chats with people from Oracle, HP, Cisco, EMC, VCE, and others. People are overall optimistic that the IT industry is set for economic growth in 2011.
The only people who look forward to change are babies in soiled diapers. My impression is that people who were threatened by Cloud Computing now have a better understanding on what they need to do going forward. Yes, this means learning new skills, re-evaluating your backup/recovery procedures, reviewing your BC/DR contingency plans, and a variety of other changes. Those who don't like frequent change should consider getting out of the IT industry. Just sayin'
I suspect this will be my last post of 2010. I will be taking a much-needed break, celebrating the Winter Solstice. To all my readers, I wish you good times over the next few weeks, and a Happy New Year!