I'm a big fan of using what you have but sometimes in storage especially we can try to get too much mileage out of our current systems. Tape library systems and old storage arrays come to mind. In the tape library case you typically try to augment what you have with disk or if you do upgrade the tape device you do so with a similar drive type. What if a newer system that may require a rip and replace will actually save you more money than keeping your current system. Isn't it worth going through the effort?
If your new storage system or tape library can radically improve the way you manage storage or fundamentally reduce the costs, then a clean sweep might very well be in order. In the storage system use case this may be a new system that can leverage thin provisioning and even migrate old data into a thin provisioned volume. Another use case may be a system that can save on space, power and cooling costs. These capabilities and others have value, provide a rapid return on the investment and are difficult to add to existing arrays.
Most of the time you want a combination of these new capabilities to justify a rip and replace move but sometimes even a single capability can justify the move. For example I spoke with a data center manger recently that moved to a new thin provisioning system, and they were able to purchase 40% less storage capacity then what they had previously. Considering they previously had almost 50TBs of storage this represents a significant cost savings as well as power, space and cooling reductions.
Of course extending a system instead of ripping it out also has its appeal, Solid State Disk, space optimization and automated tiering are ideal examples of extending the life of an existing system. They can increase performance or capacity without the need to go to a more expensive high performance disk array or add more trays of drives. An example here is a data center manager I spoke with that added a deduplication system to his environment and reduced his capacity needs by 30%. Considering he had over 75TBs of data this will allow him to postpone his storage purchases for a year.
As always you have to weigh the pros and cons to see what makes the most sense. Can a capability be added to an existing system? Does extending its life a little further make more sense or is it time to send it packing? Our recommendation is to make sure you don't hear rip and replace and rule that potential solution out.
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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.