Touch all the bases

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-10-01 Print this article Print

Touch all the bases

The most important factor in conducting a storage TCO audit, many experts say, is to make sure youre taking a comprehensive look at all of the factors that influence storage costs as well as storage-related impacts on the business. Besides simply tracking all the storage devices and usage rates, for example, its important to look at the financial facts that go with the storage resources. Find out which part of the organization purchased the device and which business unit is benefiting from its use so you can put in place an accurate chargeback system to cover support costs. Compile information on when each piece of gear will be fully depreciated so you can plan a transition to new technology that makes financial sense.

Its also important, experts say, to detail all support costs, although doing so can be the most challenging part of putting together a storage TCO assessment. It can be difficult to track all administrators who have storage management as part of their responsibilities. In addition, attempting to do so can stir up a hornets nest of political conflict as support workers often become concerned about losing their jobs.

The answer at Motorola was for Donthi and his team to reassure potentially affected IT support workers that, even if the storage-related portion of their jobs was consolidated, there were plenty of opportunities for them—such as working on new customer relationship management projects at Motorola.

The focus on support costs has more than paid off for Motorola. Donthis team was able to reduce the number of employees supporting storage significantly. In the companys Midwest region alone, it has cut use of storage support staff by more than half, to about one person for every 20 terabytes of storage. So successful have the consolidation efforts been that the infrastructure consolidation effort that began with the companys Personal Communication sector has spread across the company. Donthis global computer operations is now responsible for providing shared data center services to all of Motorolas business units. In the last six months, the global computer operations unit has grown from 400 employees to 1,600.

Besides including support costs in storage TCO audits, its important to look at the business impact of the existing and future storage infrastructure, experts say. If, for example, key business processes such as order processing or supply chain execution could be made significantly more efficient by improving response times or improving data availability, what would be the savings to the business? Also, what improvements in IT costs—software development, for example—could be realized by consolidating storage in a SAN (storage area network) or by making it more efficient?

"We try to make [IT managers] aware of how storage costs relate to other costs," said Roger Schwanhausser, director of storage and storage networking services at IBM Global Services, in Southbury, Conn. "[Storage] infrastructure may be where significant savings come from, but weve seen situations where infrastructure improvements would have only captured about half the potential cost savings. If you dont look at all the business issues, you run the risk of missing half the value."

IBM isnt the only service provider advocating the inclusion of business impact issues in storage TCO assessments. EMC, for example, typically includes analysis of business continuance, disaster recovery, application development and user productivity in its assessments, said EMCs Bradford. Similarly, the assessments prepared by the Evaluator Group focus on impacts on user productivity, business continuity, and performance from current and future storage environments. (For a white paper on Evaluator Groups TCO model, see

While storage TCO audits can provide the critical base-line information needed to begin improving IT and business processes, experts caution that IT managers should consider the objectivity of service providers when seeking outside help. With the increased focus on storage costs and TCO, some storage vendors have embraced the concept mainly as a tool for justifying the purchase of their SANs or other products. "Theres a lot of marketing around TCO right now," said Gartners Allen.

One answer, said Allen, is to get multiple assessments from different vendors. Another is to rely on outside providers for only pieces of the total TCO assessment. At Motorola, for example, Donthi uses EMC only to evaluate the hardware and software pieces of each sectors storage environment. Motorola does the business impact analysis itself. After the infrastructure and business impact assessments are completed, a separate Motorola architecture team makes the call on which storage technologies to deploy.

"We used EMC to help us understand our environment, trends in the industry and some of our exposures," said Donthi. "We werent looking for a product endorsement."

Experts have a final word of advice for IT managers considering conducting a storage TCO audit: Since such studies often kick up political controversy and often lead to IT consolidation, make sure youve got top-management support before you set out. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a ton of valuable new information about storage costs but no way to use it.

"Who cares if you can count everything if you dont have the clout?" said Allen.


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