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Responding to Poor Response Time

What happens when you upgrade your storage, only to find that response time hasn't improved?

That's what happened to assistant VP of information technology Robert Campbell of The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. According to an article in the school's online newsletter, Campbell has spent about $100,000 on SAN gear, server, and switches. While that's a big improvement, Campbell attributes ongoing slow response time to other causes, including poor design and excessive traffic -- problems he's working to solve (though he did not respond to questions on the specifics).

Sifting through the reasons for poor performance can be a Herculean task, as any IT pro knows. In fact, there are a plethora of things to check. Where to begin?

Generally, say industry sources (including analysts, vendors, and end users), when it comes to storage, isolating response time problems calls for a multifaceted approach. For instance, if storage gear is up and running properly, it may be worth trimming the amount of data stored, shipped over network links, or backed up. This is where WAN optimization, data de-duplication, data compression and compaction, and other data-slimming techniques come into play. (See Scrunchable Storage.)

There may be no single solution. Brad Hudak, director of IT at Houston-based integrator NetVersant Solutions, claims to have saved considerable time, money, and effort by deploying WAFS and WAN optimization at the company's 22 remote sites. Still, he advocates checking the actual traffic that's going on a net. Internet access that loads up connections with streaming audio and video files, for instance, may need to be addressed with end users. Quality-of-service networking may also help improve bandwidth efficiency when connecting into and out of storage networks.

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