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Cornering Consolidation

Everyone wants to save money. And for IT departments, storage networking seems just the ticket. A range of products, from SANs to wide-area file services software, is offered to centralize data access, eliminating extra servers and arrays -- and the technicians required to oversee them.

Industry literature teems with consolidation success stories. Our Byte and Switch User Profiles section is full of examples. There's the clustered NAS that replaced a mishmash of DAS and saved millions during the Super Bowl (see Sports Illustrated); the IP SANs that streamlined archiving for TV ratings (see Nielsen Media Research); the Fibre Channel fabric that stitched out racks of old-fashioned storage kit from a big manufacturer's data center (see Panasonic).

All these case studies involved the purchase of new equipment, and in many instances, the outlay was sizeable. A new SAN can cost hundreds of thousands in hardware alone. The reward, of course, is a quantifiable savings that delivers ROI in short order.

What's not always highlighted is the risk involved in implementing this stuff. Consolidating equipment with storage networking gear disrupts workflow, messes with SLAs, and can wreak havoc on departmental politics. It may require a new way of working. It may call for IT departments to work with new vendors, ones still living on VC money.

Lurking in the dark corners of this industry are stories that don't make the headlines -- the consolidation failures. But they do happen, sometimes on a grand scale, and sometimes in a quiet, miserable way.

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