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How to get the most from Windows storage consolidation

A successful storage consolidation takes more than simply moving data. Like any major IT change, the devil is in the details.

With the release of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft has made it significantly easier to consolidate storage. But getting the most out of a storage consolidation project requires some thought and planning.

Here are some points to keep in mind as you embark on combining your data into a more manageable and efficient arrangement.

Tip 1: Plan an "invisible" process
As usual, many of the critical issues revolve around organizational and managerial acceptance rather than the technology. The benefits of storage consolidation, such as reduced administrative workload and better use of storage, flow almost entirely to the IT department. Any negative effects, such as performance reductions because of network congestion or running low on storage or service disruptions, are going to be felt by everyone. Because of the potential negative effects on the rest of the enterprise, it is important to make sure that the storage consolidation process proceeds invisibly to anyone outside IT.

Tip 2: Expect circuitous improvements
While simply moving storage onto fewer arrays behind fewer servers provides basic benefits, there are other advantages to a properly implemented storage consolidation project. One big one is process improvements.

For example, consolidating storage eases storage management because there are fewer platforms to manage. However, Windows Server 2003 also makes it much easier to implement advanced storage management features from Shadow Copy to facilitating remote storage. While you're consolidating storage, it makes sense to make intelligent use of these new features as well.

At the policy level, storage consolidation offers an ideal opportunity for changes like establishing a consistent platform build on all servers and for establishing a consistent methodology for adding storage capacity. Such changes will help to hold down storage administration costs in the future.

Tip 3: Identify and reinforce potential weaknesses
Moving storage to fewer, centrally located servers offers many advantages, but it also puts some new demand on your IT infrastructure.

For example, storage consolidation increases the importance of network reliability and throughput, especially if you are moving from servers with direct attached storage to a SAN-NAS environment. It's important for you to examine your storage-related networking to make sure it is robust and flexible enough to handle the new demands.

Tip 4: Make haste…slowly
Storage consolidation doesn't have to be done all at once. In the beginning, it makes sense to "cherry pick" your projects by looking for areas where storage consolidation will provide big payoffs for relatively modest efforts.

As you progress you can refine your infrastructure and policies to get the most out of storage consolidation for your organization.

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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