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If I am doing more with less people and disk are getting cheaper, why are my costs increasing?

by Hu Yoshida on Jan 31, 2010

IT costs are increasing about 7 to 8 % per year. But when you look at industry spend on storage hardware that spend has been flat for many years, primarily due to Moore’s law. Storage densities continue to double about every 18 months. So where are we spending our IT budget? Most customers will agree that it is in increasing operational costs.

I recently visited a customer who asked me what a good FTE (Full Time Employee) to TB ratio was for measuring productivity.  I told him that FTE per capacity managed was no longer a good measure of productivity.

In the past when we measured productivity  for operational costs in FTE  per GB, labor was the largest operational expense and the focus was on developing tools to make FTEs more efficient.  Five years ago I would visit a customer with 100 TB of storage and there might be 5 people managing it. When I visit that customer today I might find the same 5 people but now they have 500 TB. So have they become more efficient thanks to better tools? If that is the case why has operational costs continued to increase? Obviously operational costs have shifted some where else. An example might be found in device migration.

Five year ago there might have been 10 or 12 storage frames that made up the 50 TB, and storage was direct attached. Doing a device migration for direct attached storage with a handful of application servers could be done in few weekends. Today 500 TB could be on two storage frames connected to hundreds of servers through a SAN, and a device migration could take six months or more while migrating 4 or 5 applications a weekend to minimize application down time. For this reason David Merrill, the storage economist, estimates that the burdened cost to do a device migration today is about $7,000 to $10,000 per TB.

You can have one person do this migration and it will take 6 months. You can have 10 people do the migration and it will take 6 months, you can off shore it to India, and it will still take 6 months. This is no longer just an FTE problem, it is a scheduling problem. The best way to address a scheduling problem is through the use of storage virtualization. Storage virtualization separates the physical view from the logical view and enables most of the data to be migrated without disrupting the application. As storage systems get larger and larger and more and more applications are sharing the same storage frame, the need for storage virtualization will become mandatory.

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[...] to Hitachi Data Systems CTO Hu Yoshida, the fundamentals of the economics of storage are being overlooked because not enough attention is paid to the operational costs associated with managing data that is [...]

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