Poor change control hits SAN expansion plans

Storage management is hard to teach - Sagitta

Robust change control and security will be the two biggest headaches for SAN users as they try to integrate and expand their storage network infrastructures, says Andy Norman, founder and CEO of UK storage specialist Sagitta.

"Most of the problems we've seen have been consequences of poor planning and change control," he says. "Not poor planning on paper necessarily, but in not understanding the technical implications of change."

He gave the example of a company which took offline half of an array used for data replication. Traffic into the other half climbed as a result and the whole thing failed.

"It's that high level infrastructure understanding and it can't be exhaustively taught," he says. "Storage managers learn the basics, but the high level stuff comes from having been there and done that kind of thing a lot already."

He adds that, as storage networks grow in complexity, users may try to circumvent the shortage of storage management skills by bringing in external help, but that this brings risks of its own: "There are general security issues here - people could break in unless you think of all the blocks that need to be in place."

Norman was speaking as Sagitta added an ongoing SAN support service to its existing plan, design and implement services. This eXpert Support Service includes capacity planning, auditing, configuration and change management, and 24x7 remote monitoring.

One of the first customers for the new service is West Yorkshire Police, which has hired Sagitta to manage the storage behind its new Linux-based video identity parade system.

A key part of eXpert Support Service is Sagitta's own WatchDog software, which monitors the whole storage infrastructure. Norman says this is specifically designed to support the service and simplify administration, not to enhance or sell SAN hardware.

"We position it carefully," he says. "It's not management, and you don't lose control. A server in the customer site collects and filters data and the customer can view it too - a lot of them make use of that. Also, we do it in a way that's culturally-secure."

He says that Sagitta is open to transferring skills to the customer, or letting the customer outsource certain skills: "It ties back to a research project we did last year, which said that people are scared of storage networking - they spend their time fire-fighting, while all the vendors do is push hardware at them." ®

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