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The Storage Economist

Transformation and the Impact to your IT Staff–Part 3

by David Merrill on Oct 23, 2012

This is the third segment in a series of blogs related to the potential impact to your staff with various transformational elements. My last topic was the impact of virtualization to your staff.

One of the key requirements for data center transformation is the idea of addressing consumer and consumption behavior. Understanding, designing and deploying technology, policies and processes that help change consumption behavior is a necessary step to transformation. It may not be popular, or even politically insulated, but it is a necessary evil.

Let’s face it, we all hate getting bills. They used to come in the mailbox, now they are on my computer with alarming regularity. Most of my bills I pay without a deep investigation. Some other bills (like my credit card with all my travel expenses) I comb through line by line to check for accuracy. My electric bill has always been frustrating, because I see the kWatt hour consumed and all the taxes, but I do not get any visibility on:

  • Time of day consumptions
  • Power usage by devices in my home
  • Variable rates that may exist at different times of the day, year, etc.
  • Recommendations to reduce my power consumption and therefore reduce my bill

Now let’s make the correlation to data center assets, consumption, metering and billing.

First, most IT users in the enterprise have been getting their IT resources for free (hey, I would like free electricity too), so any change to the “free-ness” is not going to be received well. Your IT staff may take the brunt of the negative feedback, and they cannot be in a position of bill collector or bill generator. You need to create an entirely new staff or team (perhaps in the account dept.) to handle the billing process.

Secondly, what your staff can and should do will have an impact on this consumption behavior change, so some of these ideas need to be carefully designed and implemented.

  • Your staff needs a storage service catalog to refer to when questions of billing and service levels are debated
  • If a customer wants to lower their data center utility bill, then they need to be presented with options to down-grade service or protection or performance to meet their cost limits
  • The data center staff needs to bring intelligence to the consumer. This intelligence may not yet be built into your systems (so you have to fix that too), but when it is there your team can:
    • Provide insight as to which servers, applications are generating the highest workload or the highest costs
    • What time of day and/or time of month processing schedules are causing spikes in costs and resources
    • Present options to virtualize and move workloads such that during non-peak times the resources are down-graded (re-tiered) to consume lower cost resources until the next peak time
    • Work to understand, align and fine tune the catalog and service offerings to be price competitive and drive customer satisfaction

Implementing a chargeback or show-back system will put your team in a defensive position with cloud and other providers in the marketplace. Do not let them get frightened by seemingly low-priced cloud offers from external sources (see a 2-part series on this here and here). Arm your team with a solid service catalog. Have the ability to tell how your costs come down every year, and how your service delivery gets better every year. It sort of sounds like you are turning into a vendor… and you are.

I have written about service catalogs and chargeback in the past, here are a few of those entries:

Actions Plans in a Crisis

Multi-Dimensional Metrics

Triangulating Budget Appetite and Unit Cost



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