The data value conundrum

Aligning the cost of managing data with its business value is at the crux of initiatives like information life-cycle management (ILM) and tiered storage.

The idea is that some percentage of information is really important to the organization and demands a high level of availability and performance, whereas other data is less critical and does not demand the same level of protection.

The theory is that if we can just differentiate between the two, we could more cost-effectively provide the service each user needs.

Great idea; what's the catch? At an organizational level, the problem is that while IT infrastructure is under tremendous pressure to reduce costs, storage managers rarely have a clue about the value of data.

In effect, they control, or at least understand, the X axis on the charts but not the Y axis. Storage organizations are up to their ears provisioning, managing and protecting data, but they simply lack visibility concerning which data is high-value and which is low-value.

So, who possesses this critical piece of information? Answer: business and application owners. Do they typically share this information with the infrastructure folks? Not likely, unless there is a good reason. The challenge: providing them the reason.

This strikes at the heart of the business/IT alignment issue as it relates to storage. Bridging the alignment gap requires two key elements: developing shared incentives and establishing mutual trust among groups -- not an overnight activity.

So, how can you successfully establish a value-aligned tiered storage model? One important first step would be to ensure that cost is a shared goal of both business and IT by establishing some form of cost reporting (dare I say "chargeback"?). It is critical to promote a common awareness of storage costs and consumption across the organization. Without such a mechanism, it can be tough to get business units interested in your problem. After all, they have plenty of their own.

Jim Damoulakis is chief technology officer of GlassHouse Technologies, a provider of independent storage services. He can be reached at jimd@glasshouse.com.

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