Cost + Growth + Complexity + Inoperability = Storage Pain

SNIA conducted a survey in which Storage Networking World conference attendees voiced their concerns and frustrations with implementing storage technologies in their organizations. Here's a synopsis of what the survey revealed.

Storage Networking Industry Association's (SNIA) survey identifies the main challenges facing today's storage environments.

SNIA conducted a survey in which Storage Networking World conference attendees voiced their concerns and frustrations with implementing storage technologies in their organizations. The survey was headed up by Laurence Whittaker, vice chair of the Storage Networking Industry Association's (SNIA) End User Council (EUC). Whitaker and fellow EUC chair Rick Bauer incorporated the survey's results into a formal report entitled "Top Ten Pain Points Survey."

The survey clearly indicates that end-users are struggling to meet their companies' cost containment objectives and to justify expenditures to improve their storage infrastructures.

Surveying the storage landscape

Storage cost was identified as the top user pain point. As a commodity, disk storage has become less expensive, driving the demand for increased data storage. The supporting infrastructure and management tools are still expensive. Usually the infrastructure is complex and interoperability issues make storage networks difficult to scale to meet the increased demand. Cost issues are compounded by the need for more highly skilled storage professionals. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they had delayed storage network purchases because of a factor related to cost. As a result, many respondents said they were starting small and attempting to grow their storage area networks while managing growth and capacity needs—the second biggest pain point. This caused companies to have multiple SAN networks, management domains and tools, leading to even more difficulty managing their storage infrastructure.

The report goes on to say that the storage solutions that are currently designed and implemented vary from customer to customer and supplier to supplier. Many are well-designed and supported solutions. Some are clearly over-provisioned, making them inefficient and difficult to scale, thereby driving up costs.

Management challenges center on storage resource management (SRM) and storage area network (SAN) management tools that are expensive, difficult to justify, complex, and incomplete. End users are left using multiple tools that don't interoperate. Automated provisioning solutions are still considered to be vaporware. Without these tools and solutions, SAN performance and reliability issues are difficult to avoid, detect, diagnose, and resolve.

The top ten pain points named in the survey were:

  • Cost
  • Managing growth and capacity
  • Infrastructure management
  • Lack of integrated or interoperable solutions
  • Increasing complexity of the storage infrastructure
  • Poor service and support
  • Lack of desired functions and features
  • Justifying expenditures
  • Undelivered promises
  • Lack of automation for provisioning

Contrary to the experiences of some Tech Republic members, Information Life Cycle Management issues and regulatory compliance issues rated low in the survey. (For more on regulatory compliance issues, see TechRepublic's white paper: Implementing Identity and Access Management for Regulatory Compliance from RSA Security.

The SNIA End User Council stated that the root cause of storage pain was a lack of broad fundamental understanding of how to architect, provision, and scale storage area networking technology solutions. To try and combat this problem, the EUC proposed two main initiatives involving architectural standards and education:

  • Simplify the technology with architectural standards to help reduce the cost and complexity and address negative perceptions regarding SANs and networked storage.
  • Accelerate education and certification of storage administrators, while simultaneously accelerating the adoption of standards and best practices.

Follow-up EUC discussions with attendees at October's Storage Networking World conference verified that the pain points indicated that real solutions need to be implemented. Heading into 2005, simpler and more effective SAN management is sure to be at the forefront of most IT managers' concerns. But an even bigger concern may lie with finding the talent to manage their infrastructures. Some IT managers state that there is currently a shortage of qualified storage network professionals in their organizations. Add to this the dissatisfaction with the quality of support, and you can see why storage management concerns have grown in recent times.

According to the report, many customers have expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of support, both pre- and post-sale. Complaints range from a lack of product knowledge and technical "gotchas" to technology over-hype. Customers who have the expertise on staff are using them to verify technical solutions promised by vendors. This is work for which they used to depend on pre-sales engineers.

These concerns have been captured into a second survey for EUC members and the IT professional community titled, "Storage Management: Where Are We Now?" Work on the next survey is underway with results due at the Fall 2005 Storage Networking World Conference.

The SNIA End User Council will continue to collaborate with its partners, the SNIA, and, to discover and promote architectural standards and best practices that will simplify the management of networked storage solutions.

Follow up

More information on EUC surveys is available at

What do you think? Would these be your top ten storage management pain points? Let us know by adding your comments to the discussion following this article.

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