In a business environment where the pressure to be flexible butts up against a constant avalanche of data every day, every successful company needs a well-managed information plan. CIO Insight chatted with Steve Duplessie, a senior analyst at enterprise storage group, a Milford, Mass.-based consulting and advisory firm, about the virtues of networked storage.
CIO Insight: Whats different about networked storage?
Its the keystone to all IT infrastructures. Without it, youll never get any economies of scale out of your infrastructure—or the people who have to manage it. No way can you roll out applications as fast, make changes, alter resources effectively or get the most out of your people in an unnetworked world. Sooner or later, it will cost you money. Networked storage also enables business flexibility. In todays world, who knows what company we are going to buy, whos going to buy us, or what new application will be deemed "most critical ever" next week? With a flexible infrastructure, based on a networked storage paradigm, we can change far more easily.
Where should companies focus to bolster their ability to store and retrieve data?
Most storage today is still direct-attached storage, a one-to-one relationship between a specific server and storage device. Thats the way its always been, and quite frankly, its stupid today. Why would anyone want that, if you could have an infrastructure with more [ways to reach] your information?
Also, keep in mind that its not about storage; its about information—and what you do with the zeroes and ones spinning around on a disk somewhere. If information is the lifeblood of your business, but youre bad at managing storage, you are not a serious business.
The very first thing IT executives have to do is understand where they are right now. Ninety percent of all shops only have a "best guess" as to whats out there, who generated it and if its in the right spot. There are tools and service companies that can provide those answers. I dont think its practical to take on a "strategic" initiative around storage until you understand where you are tactically.
Some say storage should be run as a utility. Can the same be said for the IT department overall?
IT is a cost center today, and cost centers are not strategic. I think IT can become a strategic profit center once it can accurately understand very granular service levels and the exact cost of delivering those services to clients within the company. Also, there needs to be different service levels available to various lines of business. The technology is almost there to do it; the rest is a people mindset issue. In five years, all IT must become an internal profit center. Once it does, it will be run as a utility.