This past month or so, I’ve been working with a number of Forrester clients who are either coming up on end of life storage hardware or are adding more capacity to their existing environment. In either case, the question always starts with “Who should we be using?” This situation comes up frequently, and I felt the need to point out some changes happening in organizations’ IT environments, and why this should be one of the last questions to ask.

  • Virtualization continues to move forward in most organizations. Although most environments are only 30% to 40% virtualized, there is an aggressive initiative to virtualize as much as possible. In Forrester surveys, virtualization was one of the top three initiatives for 2010, and I have no doubt it will be for 2011 as well. This means there is a great deal of responsibility (and budget) on the virtualization administrator to make this happen.
  • Teams are being assembled to think and design for a private cloud. This is no longer an abstract initiative but is actually happening, and rollouts may vary from one organization to another, but the reality is that business growth initiatives are forcing IT to evolve their overall environments to support these initiatives. And if they’re not, there’s a problem.
  • Businesses are moving at lightning speed. Today, the competitive landscape for any industry is aggressive. Organizations are looking to up their game, creating new growth initiatives, and leveraging technology platforms to do this. There are so many resources at their fingertips (public cloud services from AWS, etc.), that they can essentially bypass an IT department, and if savvy enough, use external resources for their needs. The bottom line is, if IT can’t do it fast enough, then IT becomes less relevant to the business. 

In my discussions, these points very rarely come up. Yet, I/O professionals in general, and storage professionals specifically, should be inserted into every one of these points and more. In virtualization, understanding the impact of VDI on storage requirements is essential for virtualization and network administrators. However, it’s not only being involved in the technology aspects, but also in the business aspects. One of the first questions I’ll ask in any discussion is “What are your organization’s plans for growth?” The answer is always a percentage for growth. Which is fine, but understanding how that percentage breaks down is more important. Not every aspect of that growth will require the same capacity or resources. 

Talk to the business. I understand today, it’s very challenging because IT has always been perceived as a bottleneck, and let’s face it, sometimes it has been. Making the effort (and it’s a Herculean effort, I know) will pay off in the end. It’s your responsibility to understand what resources are needed and deliver those to roll out business initiatives, not your internal clients’.  So before you try to figure out “who to use,” make sure you know what your business’s requirements really are, not just a percentage.