Storage Needs

As storage needs press from all sides, where are you feeling the biggest storage pain?

Be forewarned, I'm going to talk about storage, so stifle your yawns.

Actually, we expend a lot of pages in Enterprise Systems talking about storage and its close cousin, disaster recovery planning, and for good reason. As mid-level IT managers who have to jump back and forth regularly between finding technology solutions and figuring business worth, you face a thorny challenge in storage. With constantly evolving standards and virtually every company's explosive growth in the size of its data, storage is more than a thorn, actually—it's a big nasty thicket of thorns.

And the challenges of storage promise to grow ever bigger. Analyst firm IDC predicts that the storage service provider market will grow just over 6 percent a year through 2005. Companies are realizing the potential and jumping into the storage game in various ways. In February, Sun unveiled a new storage strategy that includes new software and hardware offerings and a roadmap for a future storage platform. John Maxwell, the company's network storage VP of marketing, explained that "Sun realizes [that] 50 to 70 cents of every IT dollar is going to be spent on storage going forward."

Storage technology, in fact, as ES columnist Jon Toigo points out this month, is a subset of IT that accounts for upwards of 60 percent of overall technology spending by U.S. companies. You've got to have storage, and more and more of it, of course, to meet always-on demands and burgeoning kinds and sizes of data. At the same time, studies like a recent one from Intel, which reported that storage accounts for 55 percent of IT downtime, confirm that storage can be a big black hole in the enterprise, easily one of your system administrators' biggest daily boondoggles.

One huge issue is integration and the knowledge it requires. Evolving storage topologies, along with a blossoming of standards surrounding them, require an in-depth knowledge that your enterprise managers may not have. It's easy to get mired in the technology and forget that your first focus really needs to be business requirements.

And as Jon notes, storage is an area in need of in-house experts. There's actually little solid research on who's responsible within the enterprise for storage administration, how much they're paid, and how much labor really goes into administering storage. Despite that, storage skills are judged to be one of the hottest areas of IT, even in a down market. That's because storage will only continue to grow, demanding more and more of your time and resources.

In his column this month, Jon suggests outsourcing some of your storage headaches as one solution. Because few companies want to hand off their entire storage infrastructure—too much loss of control in such an important area, for one thing—outsourcing discrete tasks, the ones that cost you the most, can make sense.

Jon's column on storage appears monthly in ES; you can also subscribe to our weekly e-mail newsletters on storage, with his comments discussing new products, deflating hype, and explaining standards and storage in general. Click here.

As storage needs press from all sides, where are you feeling the biggest storage pain? I'm at LBriggs@esj.com.

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.