Storage consolidation returns mixed: conference-goers

Some users have achieved gains from rationalisation, but others haven't had such clear-cut success

Users at the recent Storage Networking World conference in Florida say they are looking to consolidate disparate storage systems into storage-area networks (SANs) as a way to cut costs.

However, some users at the convention, which was sponsored by Computerworld US and the Storage Networking Industry Association, say it’s still too soon to tell whether such projects deliver the expected savings.

Patrick St.-Jacques, technical specialist at the Canada Revenue Agency in Ottawa, says the agency has standardised its storage operation on IBM and EMC systems. It has replaced a plethora of older devices from several vendors with EMC arrays and continues to use various installed IBM DS8000 arrays.

The agency initiated the consolidation effort in December when it issued a tender for a storage system to replace the existing offerings. It chose an EMC Symmetrix DMS-3 array with 750TB of storage to run alongside the installed IBM systems. Together, the EMC and IBM storage arrays provide more than a petabyte of storage capacity.

St.-Jacques wouldn’t disclose what the agency paid for the EMC equipment, but he says the system hasn’t yet been as cost-effective as expected.

Some users, he says, have seen the storage consolidation and the resulting increase in capacity as an opportunity to request additional capacity for themselves or their operations. In general, users at the agency are looking to increase their storage capacity by a third, he says. In fact, the agency’s current capacity is likely to be filled long before its projected three-year timetable, forcing it to purchase new equipment earlier than planned, he says.

The 45th Space Wing of the US Air Force, which manages the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, implemented a SAN four years ago. According to Glenn Exline, manager of advanced technology for US Defence contractor Computer Sciences Raytheon, which manages the unit’s computer systems, it has proved cost-effective.

The groups consolidated on EMC Clariion storage arrays with a capacity of 36TB. The new system allowed the unit to consolidate its tape library configuration, which has saved it about US$300,000 (NZ$448,000) in tapes and tape-handling fees, Exline says.

A merger of the Northumberland-Clarington and Peterborough County school districts in Ontario, Canada, included the consolidation of storage systems, says Anthony Brice, manager of technical systems at the Kawartha Pine Ridge School in Peterborough.

The merger was undertaken following an Ontario Ministry of Education mandate several years ago that school district mergers be considered as part of an effort to cut local taxes.

Two to three years after initiating the merger, the combined district in September 2005 installed a single Thunder 9570V mid-range modular storage array from Hitachi Data Systems.

Brice, who is in the process of doubling the combined system’s 3TB storage capacity, says he has also found that savings can be elusive.

Some users, such as Tracy McGee, an enterprise systems engineer at the Tulsa, Oklahoma public school district, are still looking at options for consolidating storage systems.

McGee says the school system currently runs arrays from various vendors, including EMC, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. McGee says she expects to begin working on a request for proposals soon.

Bank of America has turned to HP’s AppIQ storage resource management software in an effort to better utilise existing storage systems and control storage growth, says John Becsi, vice president and technical manager of systems engineering, architecture and analysis at the bank.

Becsi wouldn’t disclose how much the bank has saved by using the software, but says significant sums can be saved by reducing storage growth.

Mark Shirman, president and chief executive of consulting firm GlassHouse Technologies, says consolidating mixed storage environments can be very cost-effective.

Sites running storage products from multiple vendors in many cases require separate support staffs, procedures and training programs, he says. “If you’ve got ten vendors, you’ve got ten armies of people to take care of them.” Storage consolidation can save money in the long term by reducing the amount of staffing expertise and training required, he says.

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Tags managementstorageconsolidation

More about DMSEMC CorporationHewlett-Packard AustraliaHitachi AustraliaHitachi DataHitachi Data SystemsHitachi Data SystemsHPIBM AustraliaRaytheon AustraliaStorage Networking Industry AssociationSymmetrix

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