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ROA – A metric for storage virtualization

by Hu Yoshida on Dec 9, 2008

ROA or Return on Assets is the value of that can be derived from existing assets through the use of storage virtualization.

Price per capacity has been the traditional metric for the cost of storage. Industry analysts track the storage industry in terms of capacity growth and revenue from the sales of storage. However, the storage industry has been changing and these metrics are not as relevant today as they were in the past. Early on, storage consumers began to look at the total cost of ownership in order to differentiate different vendor offerings. Total cost of ownership or TCO, began by including operational costs such as warranty, maintenance, financing, connectivity, performance, floor space, and more recently power and cooling. When Storage Area Networks came along, the focus started to shift to ROI, return on investment, since storage systems were now being shared across multiple servers and applications and storage capabilities like consolidation, clone copies for offline backup, and replication for business continuance could be leveraged across multiple systems.

Another metric that was popular a few years back was the FTE (Full Time Employee) to GB ratio, which was considered to be a measure of storage management efficiency. Six years ago, I would visit an account where there would be 5 people managing 20TB. Today that account may have the same 5 people, but now they are managing 100TB. Is that because they have become  five times more efficient or because they are now managing 2 storage frames on a SAN where before they were managing 10 direct attached frames with 2TBs each? Would adding more FTE make them more efficient?  Not necessarily, since adding more people would not help them run their backups and migrations any faster nor format and provision storage any quicker. The measure of storage management efficiency is less about FTE but is gated more by the ability of storage systems to execute faster, eliminate redundancies, or do more tasks in parallel.

Storage virtualization has opened up a new metric for measuring storage. That metric is ROA, Return on Assets. This is the return that can be realized across existing assets, including people, process, and infrastructure, through the application of virtualized storage services. Lower level storage systems that are virtualized behind a tier 1 storage control unit, inherit the tier 1 capabilities of the virtualization engine. Modular storage systems often see a 30% improvement in throughput when virtualized behind a USP V, and storage systems that do not have the capability to do distance replication, can have their data replicated through the USP V half way around the world. Mainframe systems can utilize low cost SATA storage through the USP V. Storage virtualization enables existing storage infrastructure to have tier 1 functionality and performance and provide a greater return on their current and future investments.
The USP V or USP VM (modular rack mounted version) can increase management efficiency through features like Dynamic provisioning. With Dynamic Provisioning, we can create a pool of preformatted pages, which we can provision immediately to a new server. And since we provision pages as they are actually used, we save the waste of allocated unused space that is copied over and over again. Copies, moves, and replication of dynamically provisioned storage execute faster since only the used pages are processed. Dynamic provisioning is a reusable service that is available to storage that is virtualized behind the USP V/VM.

The USP V/VM can be evaluated with traditional TCO and ROI assessments since it is an enterprise storage system. However, the real benefit of the USP V/VM is its ability to virtualize and enhance existing storage assets and provide an ROA.

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Comments (2 )

USP/USP-V User on 10 Dec 2008 at 1:04 pm


Add AS/400 (FC or SATA disks) support to the USP-V please! :)


Hu Yoshida on 16 Dec 2008 at 10:00 am

That is a tough business case to make today due to the different block size and the bundling approach to AS/400. If the disk drive manufacturers, IDEMA, are successful with a 4kB sector, we may see a change in the future.

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