Mountains of corporate governance regulations, multiplying numbers of web pages, and swathes of demand for keeping audio, video and still images in digital formats have made controlling storage a CIO-level issue over the last several years. However, the data flood has been good news as far as the giants in disk, tape and storage servers have been concerned, as they offer the water wings that allow companies to wade through the accumulating terabytes of information.
Few companies have ridden the data storage waves more successfully than Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), the Japanese giant that is positioning itself as the ultimate back-end storage repository and supplier of tools to more intelligently control what is threatening to be an overwhelming deluge of information.
As a storage veteran (as well as a veteran of the Vietnam war where he led a Marine Corps Platoon) HDS chief technology officer Hu Yoshida has some strong views on how firms can better understand the issues surrounding fast-growing data volumes and capitalise on the information they hold. However, despite the premise of open systems in other IT infrastructure and promises of interoperability from storage vendors, Yoshida warns that big decisions on storage models still have to be right from the outset. And, in spite of the perception that CIOs need not have done the hard yards in the datacentre to be successful these days, Yoshida says CIOs are getting better at understanding what's happening to the underlying bits and bytes.
"It's becoming more and more important which technologies and architectures you follow because that will lock you in for the next three to five years and that's a lifetime in technology," Yoshida says, in a London interview part way through a European customer tour in August.
"I find CIOs are becoming more technical. The good CIOs have to interpret the technologies into economic sense."
That theory ties in neatly with HDS's push to explain what it calls "storage economics". This is "explaining storage in economic terms that a finance person can understand", he says, and central to its premise is a dismissal of the idea that buying storage kit is a one-off capital expenditure transaction. Instead, buyers have to factor in a range of operating expenditure issues and potential traps.
"Capex you pay for once but opex includes power, cooling and people (that are becoming more expensive) and the cost of migrating is often more than the cost of the hardware itself," he says.
HDS consultant David Merrill came up with the theory several years ago, based on economic texts such as Information Economics by Marilyn Parker and Robert Benson, of a model for thinking about storage as a holistic investment rather than purely by price-per-megabyte, the gauge that many firms were using at the time to measure value. Instead, storage economics proposes that return on investment, people costs (up to 40 per cent of total cost of ownership, it is claimed), software, installation, training, write-off costs, potential for outage, waste, electricity and environmental factors should all be included and calibrated to better understand the underlying risk and reward of a storage purchasing decision.
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