Opinion: Finding a home for orphaned storage

A combination of factors contributes to storage capacity being orphaned

An often-expressed frustration, particularly in large IT shops, is the difficulty in locating, identifying and reclaiming orphaned storage. It seems that everyone in the organization knows that there is storage out there that is not being used, but finding it, not to mention redeploying it, tends to be a significant undertaking.

How does storage become orphaned? It's usually the result of a combination of factors, beginning with the sheer volume of capacity that overstretched administrators are required to manage in conjunction with various process and technology constraints. On the process side, shortcomings in system life-cycle management can result in storage administrators never being informed about decommissioned servers, for example. This results in storage that appears to be assigned but isn't currently accessible from any host. From a technology perspective, lack of reporting and monitoring tools that provide the appropriate degree of visibility is a major contributor.

While storage vendors offer platform-specific tools capable of identifying orphaned storage, several third-party storage management vendors offer platform-independent tools that include this capability as well. Tek-Tools, Onaro (now part of NetApp) and MonoSphere, for example, all offer products that can, among other things, identify orphaned storage. As server virtualization becomes more widely adopted, organizations are finding the visibility issue to be an even greater challenge, and several vendors have enhanced their products to support virtualized environments.

Of course, identification is only the first part of the problem; actually reclaiming it is quite another. While there may be some clear instances of "low-hanging fruit," the real effort comes in fully validating that the storage is truly available, determining the impact of reclamation and reallocation, and simply finding the time to perform these tasks. It's not always clear in a busy production environment that the effort is justified.

Nonetheless, making an informed decision should be based on having the right metrics to quantify the opportunity. But if this type of data isn't currently available, establishing a means to gather and present it is a worthwhile place to begin.

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

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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