Admins: Know Thy Data

CA users say managing storage begins with understanding its value

November 19, 2005

4 Min Read
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For storage capacity to be managed effectively, administrators must know exactly what data is stored on the network and understand the value of it all.

That was the clear sentiment of Computer Associates storage software users on a panel at CA World in Las Vegas this week.

To determine whats on his storage network, Mohamad Alkazaz, IT manager at Newbury, Ohio-based Saint Gobain Crystals, went straight to the source and surveyed 400 users at his manufacturing firm. The results weren’t pretty.

“Sixty-five percent reported they store data to the network but they hardly use it ever again,” Alkazaz says. “So they’re using network resources, but sometimes they don’t go back and verify 'I need this file' or 'I don’t need it.'

“Twenty-eight percent consider the network drive to be their own backup drive, and they started backing up their entire hard drive to the network. And 30 percent store multiple copies of the same file.”No wonder Alkazaz’s staff failed to get a handle on storage requirements.

“We spec out hardware at the beginning of the year and anticipate we’re going to need a 20 percent to 25 percent increase of storage over 12 months, then three months later we’re running out of space,” he says.

Alkazaz handled the problem by using CA’s BrightStor Storage Resource Manager to generate reports on what was stored on the network, then getting division mangers involved in the cleanup.

“We were able to see what was going on with the network, identify files by type and generating reports for division managers. We said, ‘Here’s what we’re backing up. Here’s what’s on the network. Consider what you want. Is this something deemed necessary? If it is, we’re going to back it up. If it isn’t, let’s see what we can do to move it out of the system.’ ”

George Rodriguez, lead systems programmer at online retailer abc Distributing in Miami, says he also enlisted help but made sure to have the final say in cleaning up the network.“I’m the storage guy, so the buck stops here with me,” he said. “When I have to do something about storage and the space that it uses, I have to have the proper tools to handle that. I have different divisions that use different amounts of information. I have to give them what they need when they have to develop their applications. At the same time, I have to make sure the production environment stays intact and keeps growing as it needs to."

And Rodriguez said he found being able to show the data to the user and letting them manage their own space was easier than doing it all himself.

Glenn Exline, manager of advanced technologies at the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, agrees that identifying data is the first step towards taming it. Exline’s outfit analyzes information to support missile launches at several sites in North and South America. But not all of his users’ data is rocket science, and he doesn’t want to have to treat it that way.

“We apply value to the data we’re storing,” he says. “One of the challenges we face is our users range from administrative to secretarial folks to real rocket scientists to meteorologists. Being able to store data for all those different classes of users and being able to apply value to it is a challenge, because a JPEG for one person might be a picture of their kids, a JPEG for another may be a meteorological chart for the next launch.”

Bill Lazarus, VP of IT architecture and security at St. Joseph Health System in Orange, Calif., says sometimes it’s not possible to curb storage capacity growth. That’s especially true in healthcare, an industry trying to catch up with storage technology. Healthcare storage needs range from archiving for compliance, to modernizing the way physicians work, to keeping up with capacity for huge digital files for new equipment.While new 3D cardiology systems help medical professionals do their jobs, they also give storage admins a lot more to handle.

“Over the last three years, IT has become a critical enabler of our business,” Lazarus says. “For many years, healthcare did not fully realize the opportunity that technology can bring. We’re bringing a whole population of clinical users that are used to manual processes for decades online with new state-of-the-art applications and doing a lot of work flow designing behind that technology, not just bringing new technologies.”

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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