Balancing storage and cost while sorting your data
Storage is meant to be cheap. The price per gigabyte of storage has collapsed over the last 40 years. In 1980, a gigabyte of storage would have cost you over $400 000. Today, the same capacity costs 3 cents (US)!
It's an unbelievable shift, yet many companies might feel that's wrong. If anything, they are paying more for data storage. Chances are, they pay a low price per gigabyte, but their choices of storage aren't generating value where the business needs it, says Chris Larkins, Tarsus' Business Unit Manager for Dell Enterprise services: "If you do what people have always done – you buy a storage array of sorts and just carry on shovelling data at it – then yes, that sort of cost is higher than it should be."
This situation develops because there is much more to storage than just storing data. Unless your goal is purely to archive and stockpile data, then you likely don't have as much of a cost problem. But data's value comes to life when it turns into information, defined by its purpose. Many organisations neglect that step and then run into bottlenecks.
"Companies don't necessarily understand what they need. Or they think it's too complicated to manage, then they just put that one-size-fits-all approach and then pack it in there. Then budgets generally don't go up for storage. At some point, the system breaks when you run out of funds, or you're out of storage."
Balancing storage and purpose
The above situation explains why storage costs start to escalate when they shouldn't. To avoid this, Larkins explains, they first need to decide what they expect from their data. What are the business requirements? If you don't approach it from this angle, storage will revert into a capacity conversation.
"It comes down to taking the time to understand what you've got. If you just throw in an appliance or a new storage array to store something, that's backwards. It's doing things absolutely the wrong way around."
Larkins adds that it only takes a few hours' conversation to unpack what you'd need. Taking this small window makes all the difference when selecting a storage appliance. It may be tempting to throw it all in the cloud, but by now, many know that cloud storage costs can be unpredictable. Nor is it always the most convenient or compliant way to manage some types of data.
By focusing on creating understanding and relevance around business requirements, you can balance storage and cost while empowering your data. This approach will help avoid the paradox of paying more for storage at a time when storage has never been cheaper.
A little forethought may be all you need to keep storage costs down. Then you can deploy the most appropriate storage solution and scale it out accordingly. This approach can also help support digital transformation discussions.
"Modern storage provides many new features that allow you to do more with your data, store more with less, and you can react faster to scenarios and move data around into different places. Features such as deduplication ratios, compression and cache. They're a cornerstone for modernisation conversations, especially if you want to embrace the multicloud world."
Know your data
The first rule of cost-effective storage: don't listen to someone who only wants to sell a product, a piece of tin. They can tout the latest features and high-speed performance, but that means little if the business requirements don't dictate the direction of storage. To reach that point, organisations must invest a little effort into auditing and understanding their data, Larkins adds: "Start with that understanding process. Deploy a tool in the environment that can give you something to work on and understand what you have out there. There are various tools around, some of them are free. Some the consulting companies can provide. But get an understanding of what you have, map that against what you need it to be, and then fire up those conversations with people to figure out what's available to you."
Crucially, talk to people who ask business questions and work to understand where your company needs its storage to be. Who cares if NVMe storage is fast if you don't know how it will benefit the business? By focusing on creating understanding and relevance around business requirements, you can balance storage and cost while empowering your data. This approach will help avoid the paradox of paying more for storage at a time when storage has never been cheaper.
"If you're planning on taking a Formula One car into the Dakar race, that's clearly not going to work well. The business needs to understand where it's playing and build appropriately. Let's get the basics in place and understand what you want, so you're not wasting that investment. And then get something that can scale – scale out, scale up, move to cloud, do whatever your business needs it to do."