As storage growth rates continue to climb, issues such as rising power consumption and inefficiencies stemming from storing duplicate data files are negatively impacting network storage environments. The cost of managing and supporting storage continues to be at least twice the initial capital expenditure, and managers are under increasing pressure to improve capacity utilization while bringing down skyrocketing data center energy costs.

With limited IT dollars to spend, many organizations are looking to manage growth while also controlling expenses through storage consolidation strategies. Storage consolidation is the pooling and provisioning of shared storage resources, and it is proven to help organizations dramatically reduce the maintenance cost of proliferated storage and more fully utilize existing storage assets, thus decreasing the need for new storage expenditures.

Networked storage is the primary architecture for consolidated storage. Networked storage pools storage across servers, allowing applications to share capacity and breaking the direct relationship between servers and storage disks. IT managers can provision or reserve storage for a particular application or server from their management console and redeploy that capacity in a matter of minutes.

Organizations can further refine their storage consolidation strategy with virtualization. By building an abstract layer above the physical storage, virtualization creates a shared pool of storage that is presented to the operating system, applications and users. By sharing storage resources among applications rather than reserving empty storage space on a server for an application that may never need it, administrators can dramatically improve upon the typical 40 percent to 50 percent capacity utilization rates that typify most IT shops.

Many organizations have taken a highly tactical view of storage consolidation to address very specific areas of concern. While such consolidation represents an improvement and will result in some savings and efficiencies, the benefits are limited to those particular storage silos.

After achieving the initial benefits of such targeted solutions, organizations need to adopt a more strategic approach to achieve the full benefits of a consolidated storage architecture. That means developing strategies that view the IT environment as a whole and encompass all elements, which can be broken down into three broad categories:

  • Physical devices. This includes servers, arrays and all networked storage hardware. Most experts agree that this is the logical starting point in any consolidation plan.
  • Application data. This includes Microsoft Exchange, databases, web content, file data, archive and compliance data, production applications — any system requiring the storage of data.
  • Management tools. Many tools are used to manage different arrays and servers, and they all have their own interface and learning curve. Consolidation here is designed to reduce the number of tools the organization must license, deploy and learn how to use.

There is no end in sight to the ongoing expansion of data storage, and it places an undeniable strain on IT budgets. Storage consolidation can help address these issues, particularly if it is incorporated as part of a long-term strategy rather than a one-time fix to a tactical problem. Because data growth is an enduring concern, organizations would be wise to look at storage consolidation as a continuous process that requires strategic planning and ongoing attention.