Storage Management Still a Pain

Tuesday Dec 27th 2005 by Marty Foltyn

SNIA revisits its storage management survey of end users and finds that the problems haven't gone away.

A year ago, a Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) survey revealed user frustration with storage management, including high costs, poor management tools, growing storage needs and increasing complexity.

To find out more about the reason for end users' frustration and to see if any progress has been made, SNIA's End User Council (EUC) developed a new survey to explore those "pain points" in greater detail, examining users' inability to manage storage assets and infrastructure, the lack of integrated or interoperable solutions, and barriers to adoption.

The 2005 survey asked IT professionals their opinion on a variety of topics, including challenging storage and storage management issues, impressions of new technology justifications and maturity, how best practices are disseminated within organizations, how storage complexity is being addressed, and barriers to adoption of storage and storage management. Norman Owens, EUC survey chair, advocated this comprehensive approach, even while apologizing for the length of the survey. Considering that 252 end users completed all questions, the length of the survey didn't appear to be an issue.

Among those survey respondents were EUC members, user group (SNUG) members and Storage Networking World conference attendees, many of whom had participated in the 2004 survey. This lent some continuity to the answers, although the actual responses were anonymous. Respondents provided demographic details that allowed comparisons between end users in businesses under 1,000 employees, those with 1,000 to 4,999 employees, and large businesses with more than 5,000 employees.

Digging in Deeper

The EUC was interested both in comparing problem rankings from 2004 to 2005, as well as diving deeper into why users ranked issues the way they did.

By comparing related questions from 2004 to 2005, they discovered that the top 2004 survey pain point — cost containment — no longer resonated as strongly with 2005 respondents. Presented with the choice of seven challenging IT issues, 2005 respondents rated reliability (92%) and recovery/business continuity (85%) as more important than cost containment (80%) in how they approached IT within their organizations. In addition, the next three issues (security, application performance, and compliance with government regulatory issues) all ranked higher than 65% among respondents. The compliance ranking was notable for its importance to medium and large business; however, it ranked as significantly less important in the small business sector.

Managing storage assets and infrastructure was a considerable issue for 2004 survey users, and the response was no different in 2005. One in six respondents ranked as #1 their inability to accomplish these tasks. Their response sounds a warning, particularly in light of the fact that these same respondents expect an average of between 40% and 50% growth rates in storage over the next two years. When asked about solutions to address these issues, respondents were cautiously optimistic in evaluating storage automation as a solution.

Exploring 2004's interoperability issues yielded new insights. One in four 2005 survey respondents said they continue to struggle with a lack of integrated or interoperable solutions, and this is likely to increase, with their estimates of storage growth at over 30% through 2007. Architects, engineers and managers responded most strongly to the survey's interoperability questions, and the issue resonated most strongly with large companies. Respondents as a whole placed high importance on reliability, and moderate importance on speed of new application delivery. They were optimistic about tiered storage as an interoperability solution with acceptable ROI, and ranked fabric-based and appliance-based virtualization as somewhat difficult to justify, but easier than client-based alternatives.

Challenging Storage Issues

Respondents saw a number of challenging storage issues at their organizations. Managing growth and meeting capacity needs, managing "I need it now" capacity demands, and justifying expenditures ranked as the top three challenges. All eight challenges cited were perceived as at least a moderate challenge by 80% of respondents. Also notable was that small businesses ranked security as their most challenging issue.

Survey respondents were presented with nine challenges to storage management in their organizations, including backup and recovery, managing complexity, IT budget constraints, and a lack of management priority for storage infrastructure improvement. IT budget constraints ranked as by far the most challenging storage management issue, with small businesses particularly feeling the pain. Ranking in the second tier of issues were reliable backup and recovery solutions, managing complexity of the storage infrastructure, and lack of management tools.

Large companies, which represented 50% of respondents in the 2005 survey, indicated that decreased cost of management and maintenance and increased multi-vendor interoperability would most help them implement change in their storage technologies.

A number of survey questions addressed barriers to adopting storage solutions, including adding/changing vendors, SRM and SAN management, vendor complexity and end user tools. 2005 end user respondents identified high costs of training and re-training as significant barriers to adding or changing vendors. Cost of certification and testing also ranked as high barriers to adopting and implementing new technologies.

Owens praised the dedication of EUC and SNUG members as well as SNW attendees and their willingness to provide insights on the issues that affect their daily operations.

Survey responses were North American-based, but a subset of questions were presented at September 2005's Storage Networking World Europe, with those results expected in early 2006.

Owens and the EUC survey team are now working on defining the scope of the 2006 survey, and 2005 findings are likely to play a role in both the design and questions. Owens invites all IT professionals to become involved in crafting the 2006 survey, to be launched at Storage Networking World in San Diego in April.

The full 2005 EUC survey, and details on getting involved in future efforts, can be found at the SNIA EUC Web site,

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