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So Much Data, So Little Information: IT Experts Straight-Talk Cloud Storage Optimization

Meg Matich

IT experts straight talk about cloud storage optimization.Recently, we had an unusual opportunity — to talk with Spencer Hamons, an executive architect at NetApp. With a background as a healthcare CIO for more than 20 years, he’s a critical leader for the NetApp® Professional Services team. He’s also a genius at gently guiding companies as they evolve their data center infrastructures and optimize their cloud storage. Listen to what he has to say about managing your data and applications optimally in the cloud. Although he talked a bit about what NetApp does, he has some great advice for those who wander cloud storage and on-premises infrastructure, feeling a bit lost (but, as the adage goes: Not all those who wander are lost).

You can also watch the interview with Spencer Hamons and Jeff Dickey to learn more.

Are you ready to resolve IT and data storage problems quickly?

Here’s an insider’s look at how the Professional Services team at NetApp makes a difference by devising optimized solutions for problems that are hard to scope and hard to solve. And after you’ve read this blog post, don’t forget to check out our no-frills guide to optimizing your cloud storage (tips on talking to your boss there, too). If you’re interested in something a bit more meaty, check out our new guide on 10 things you can do now to solve your storage problems.

The DRIP hypothesis: Are you feeling data-rich but information-poor?

Everyone wants their cloud adoption to be a success. What do you think the most significant barrier to success is? Migration? Management? New processes and procedures? Company culture, even? No to all of those: In our experience, the biggest problem is a lack of information. Don’t get us wrong, there’s an almost infinite amount of data that tells us what’s going on. But all too often, we don’t have a holistic understanding of why the problem exists. We need insights that are relevant to our particular infrastructure designs and use cases, but we usually don’t know enough about the root causes of problems to think up and deliver strategic changes. IT teams are often “DRIP”: data-rich, information-poor. And that’s a hurdle to success.

Without information, complex operations and storage infrastructures have a way of steering out of control. You see a surge in I/O that’s untraceable, but it stems from someone who has a side project that only needs a few dozen gigabits an hour. You see budget impacts from shadow IT, which is also eating your storage and resources for lunch. You see the data surges and storms, but it’s hard to understand the root causes, identify the owners, and make changes.As we point out in the no-frills guide, there’s often no tagging system in place to map cloud usage to company initiatives. And if at least 10% of your cloud spending is untraceable, you have some serious work to do.

The Professional Services team members at NetApp (with the NetApp Cloud Insights tool) have seen it all before, and they know which levers to pull to make a difference; they can help you course-correct your cloud. But there are steps you can take, too, before you decide on a Professional Services engagement.

How to approach a cloud storage conundrum

In Hamons’s view, cloud problems are often business issues rather than IT issues. And often while investigating enterprise problems, the team uncovers process or operational issues that need work. Hamons and his team dig into the facts quickly and efficiently, share the data, and use analytics tools to support their hypotheses about root causes and appropriate solutions. With this approach, NetApp’s customers are able to digest assessments and recommendations quickly, accelerating action and time to resolution. Hamons’s team members always do what they can to support their customers, even when the customers make unusual requests.

Hamons’s team refuses to give a fact or recommendation to a customer and then walk away. They do their best to educate customers on operational analytics best practices; it’s the “teach someone to fish” mentality. That approach gives their customers the confidence to do the right thing, at the right time, in the right place, with the right team members, and using tools that have a track record of supporting fundamental fixes.

Some questions to ask to get the scoop on DRIP

The questions that follow are just a teaser. For the full list, along with concrete steps you can take today, right away, right now, read the no-frills guide. Or you can also talk to Hamons’s team for a helping hand.
  • Does your firm have a full inventory of all its cloud accounts? Are they governed to ensure that spending is within budgets?
  • Is anyone using cloud expense and budget reporting tools — either from your provider or a third party — to analyze your bill?
  • Do your cloud administrators use cost tags so that reports can be generated in business-relevant categories?
  • Do you scrutinize and cross-check expenses to ensure that they’re approved?
  • Do you scrutinize and limit data egress?
  • Do you have a process for reclaiming orphaned resources?
  • Is your data distributed across too many regions or availability zones?
Now you’re ready to build an actionable report. You can use the information you’ve gathered about your cloud storage to break down expenses into three groups: untraceable costs, optimizable costs, and protected costs.

If you want help to stop the DRIP…

We’re tempted to make a plumber pun in here, but let’s skip ahead to the important bit about getting you the help you need.

The consulting team exists to find solutions that improve enterprise management, not just sell software. Hamons’s team is full of former CIOs and COOs, and they come with a deep understanding of how “band-aid” fixes never fix anything. They know how relatively minor problems can undermine performance or stability and how leaders often grapple with managing an IT department or an organization. Rather than being staffed by administrators, the Professional Services team is full of IT leaders with a range of expertise at various operational levels. The team provides overlapping but distinct specialists as resources for a broad range of problems — providing real value to a wide range of customers. We think of them as the Gordian knot untanglers of NetApp, with a deep understanding of on-premises and cloud storage, as well as what your executives are thinking.

In Hamons’s experience, even long-standing NetApp customers are sometimes stymied and don’t want to spend six figures on consultants to do an evaluation. This is not to speak ill of ourselves, but rather to be honest: Legacy infrastructures, if they’ve been in place for as long as we think they have, can be a real mess, especially as employees, needs, and the times change.

Instead of typical consulting, companies want quick, actionable insight, built on real data. The NetApp Professional Services team delivers exactly that. They identify, investigate, and recommend a real solution that’s aimed at fixing a technical issue while also supporting a real business improvement. That means storage administrators and users have easier lives, and your organization learns to maintain smooth-as-silk operations that counteract DRIP. So you are data-rich and information-rich.

Recommendations for cost-effective cloud storage optimization

Hamons and his team understand product ownership in large organizations and fully recognize the need to deliver predictable performance without downtime or disaster. He often works with billion-dollar institutions that need to deliver simplicity and agility to their customers. NetApp supports those goals.

Taking a systematic, flexible approach to user problems, the NetApp team creates tailored insights and outcomes that take into account the distinctive differences of every customer. Keeping entire industries running 24/7 is their job, and they refuse to compromise on that. Keeping solutions simple is one of their keys to success.

And the job is immensely satisfying. The NetApp consulting team commonly walks into a high-stakes situation, explores options, and realizes that they can save their customers hundreds of thousands of dollars with a straightforward rework of cloud-based architecture. The key is to think about problems in a different way, and often, that simple difference unlocks compelling value.

Yes: It will be okay. It can be done. You can do it.

So, what do you do next to clean up your cloud (and on-premises, and hybrid, and multicloud) storage?

If you want the scoop in two pages, read the no-frills guide to optimizing your cloud storage.

If you’re interested in the longer story, check out our new guide on 10 things you can do now to solve your storage problems. It also includes the 5 signs that you might have a cloud storage spending problem.

You can also watch the full interview with Spencer Hamons and Jeff Dickey to learn more about Hamons’s experience, what he brings to the table, and how NetApp thinks when it helps companies like yours move forward.

Meg Matich

View all Posts by Meg Matich

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