The very first step in improving IT efficiency is to demand oversight. In the world of storage and virtualization, this means demand command and control of the environment. Demand a tool that will give you a visual view of the environment both in real time and a historical view. The reason this is critical is that to increase efficiency there are two components that must be available at the outset. First, it's the ability to know what you have, and the second is the ability to know where you have been, so you can measure and prove success.
These tools are available from the larger storage manufacturers like EMC, HP, and NetApp, but make sure that their tools will cover more than just their own, or a select number of third-party storage vendors. There are companies like Tek-Tools, Akorri, and Monosphere that are independent companies and by their nature can provide a more neutral application for this purpose.
Sometimes a concern with standardizing on an independent software solution is support from the storage hardware manufacturer. What we have seen repeatedly is that selection of one of these tools and strict insistence on support of it causes the hardware manufacturers to quickly fall in line and provide support. Some will even begin to offer advanced support to capture a competitive edge in your data center. This isn't a time where storage manufacturers can sustain a customer loss based on lack of support of software application. The knowledge of how the storage network interrelates to the virtualized server environment also is critical. The ability to see what storage is assigned to which virtual machine or physical host is critical in allocating future systems as well as trouble-shooting problems that may arise.
Understanding what you have, especially in a virtual environment, is a critical first step in identifying areas within your infrastructure that can save IT budget dollars or at least optimize the infrastructure for the economic realities of the day. Tools that can give you a view of what you have, what you have too much of, and what you need more of will help you prioritize those budget dollars correctly.
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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.