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Want a promotion? Study economics, says HDS economist

Someone needs to know how to measure IT costs and it might as well be you

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Want to get noticed by the higher-ups in your workplace? Forget about a new certification or home lab, an appreciation of economics and its application as a tool to define precise metrics about just what it costs to operate your employer's IT kit will see you get ahead.

That's the opinion of Hitachi Data Systems' (HDS') chief economist David Merrill, who founded the firm's storage economics practice and now travels the world performing consulting gigs that help firms understand – and lower - the total cost of ownership of their storage rigs.

Most of Merrill's clients are in the dark, he says, because they don't have anyone on staff who makes it their business to understand the true cost of keeping their arrays and the data they contain available.

Enter ambitious sysadmins whose coalface appreciation of how businesses' IT operates makes them ideally placed to understand where the bodies are buried the source of costs. That knowledge, he feels, means sysadmins can become “economic heroes” and “own cost reduction programs” by analysing the source of costs and suggesting money-saving changes.

Doing so, he said, will see you emerge as irresistibly promotion-worthy, because controlling costs marks one out as rather more special “than someone who does a good Windows 8 deployment”.

“Do you want to be a tin manager or a value-adding employee?” he asks.

Studying the dismal science, he says, won't prove onerous to anyone capable of wrapping their heads around IT. And HDS helpfully offers courses in storage economics, as do more independent entities like Coursera).

If that all sounds like corporate spruiking, albeit subtler-than-usual corporate spruiking, Merrill says his time helping others to understand the cost of their storage setups also leads him to believe most data is over-protected by 200 to 300 per cent.

That's an interesting statement for an employee of a storage vendor to voice to the press and one he says is not always well-received within the halls of HDS.

The company may not care that one of its staff nips at the feeding hand, as Merrill says he's had 1400 engagements since cooking up storage economics back in 1998, and has since developed variants for virtualisation, clouds and other infrastructure. His methods have also reached the HDS sales team and channel and made it into a For Dummies book he says is based on his writings but does not bear his name, as he's not a fan of the brand.

The book is a free download, but Merrill says his principles aren't useful to those wrangling fewer than 20 terabytes of data. ®

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