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Data Storage Management Challenges

Too many IT personnel become product specialists instead of storage specialists, limiting their ability to provide answers to wide-ranging enterprise problems

Automated software management software capable of dealing with heterogeneous computing architectures and mixed environments of tape, hard drive, and solid state storage presents enormous opportunities for organizations to move forward with storage management strategies and get on top of their data. But the jury is still out as to how well enterprises are really doing in their day-to-day management of data and storage resources.

"The data that enterprises are acquiring, managing, and storing has soared over the past four years," says Aloke Shrivastava, senior director of educational services for EMC. "Many enterprises have the tools and techniques on hand to manage this data, but in the worldwide research that we have conducted, enterprise IT and storage managers are telling us that the number one challenge they are facing is that their enterprise data is growing exponentially, but that the skill sets needed to manage this data are not readily available in the market."

Part of the problem is likely a consequence of the economic downturn. EMC's research shows that 50 percent of the enterprises interviewed responded that they required additional skills to manage their IT workloads, which were increasing at the same time that the number of people available to support the workloads was going down. "We actually had 5 percent of respondents in our research tell us that they needed to re-skill their entire IT teams, which told us that people during the downturn were being asked to assume different responsibilities or roles than they were trained for," Shrivastava says. Meanwhile, IT organizations are stretched to just get the daily work done -- and there isn't enough time to fine-tune or to do the little things.

Shifting roles and growing workloads affect data and storage because the tools that sites purchase to manage these resources are only as good as the knowledge that backs them up. "One of the issues that we find is that, in some cases, people don't understand the nature of the data that they are storing," says Emmanuel Hooper, an independent consultant with Global Info Intel and a noted expert in quantitative, qualitative, and statistical research, information security, and computing sciences. "Data is often aggregated in storage systems without taking into account that there are different classifications of data. When people don't fully understand the content of the data, it makes it that much more difficult to apply correct data and storage management policies, such as the appropriate level of security that should be attached to different data classifications and different storage devices."

One common trap that many enterprises can fall into, Hooper says, is becoming expert on the recommendations and best practices that their individual storage vendors give them without taking the time to consider how these best practices fit with other areas of their storage and data management architectures. This is an opinion that is shared by Stefan Kochishan, director of product marketing for CA, a provider of systems and storage management for the mainframe and the open systems markets. "What we often see in enterprises is that people have a tendency to become product specialists instead of storage specialists," said Kochishan. "So you may cultivate some of the best techniques for data and storage management by taking advantage of product best practices, but you will not get all of the benefits unless you are able to think across your entire storage architecture and how it all fits together."

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