Reduce Your Storage Technology Debt

The idea of application debt or technology debt is gaining currency. At Capgemini, technology debt is directly related to quality. The consulting firm defines is as “the cost of fixing application quality problems that, if left unfixed, put the business at serious risk.” To Capgemini not every system clunker adds to the technical debt, only those that are highly likely to cause business disruption. In short, the firm does not include all problems, just the serious ones.

Accenture’s Adam Burden, executive director of the firm’s Cloud Application and Platform Service and a keynoter at Red Hat’s annual user conference in Boston June brought up technology debt too. You can watch the video of his presentation here.

Does the same idea apply to storage? You could define storage debt as storage technologies, designs, and processes that over time hinder the efficient delivery of storage services to the point where it impacts business performance. Then, using this definition, a poorly architected storage infrastructure no matter how well it solved the initial problem may create a storage debt that eventually will have to be repaid or service levels would suffer.

Another thing with technology debt; there is no completely free lunch. Every IT decision, including storage decisions, even the good ones, eventually adds to the technology debt at some level. The goal is to identify those storage decisions that incur the least debt and avoid the ones that incur the most.

For example, getting locked into a vendor or a technology that has no future obviously will create a serious storage debt. But what about a decision to use SSD to boost IOPS as opposed to a decision to throw more spindles at the IOPS challenge? Same with B2D. Does it create more or less storage debt than tape backup?

Something else to consider:  does storage debt result only from storage hardware, software, and firmware decisions or should you take into account the skills and labor involved? You might gradually realize you have locked yourself into a staff with obsolete skills.  Then what; fire them all, undertake widespread retraining, quit and leave it for the next manager?

And then there is the cloud. The cloud today must be factored into every technology discussion. How does storage in the cloud impact storage debt? It certainly complicates the calculus.

It’s easy to accumulate storage debt but it’s also possible to lower your organization’s storage debt. Here are some possibilities:

  • Aim for simple storage architectures
  • Standardize on a small set of proven products from solid vendors
  • Virtualize storage
  • Maximize the use of tools with a GUI to simplify management
  • Standardize on products certified in compliance with SMI-S for broader interoperability
  • Selectively leverage cloud storage
  • Use archiving, deduplication, thin provisioning  to minimize the amount of data you store

Sticking with one or two of the leading storage vendors–IBM, EMC, HP, Dell, NetApp, Symantec, Hitachi, StorageTek–is a generally safe bet, but it too can add to your storage debt.

You’re just not going to eliminate the storage debt, especially not in an environment where the demand for more and different storage is increasing every year.  The best you can strive for is to minimize the storage debt and restrain its growth.

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