Capital expenditure must increase to keep up

One typical measure of the effectiveness of IT management is how efficiently IT personnel manage each gigabyte of storage. We should note here however, that while the dollars per-gigabyte metric has been with us in its basic form for quite a while, it has undergone one fundamental change: just a few years ago today's "cost-per-gigabyte" measurement was a "cost-per-megabyte" calculation, and already at many enterprise IT sites cost-per-gigabyte has given way to a "cost-per-terabyte" measurement.

Because of this, while we can perhaps take some comfort in the fact that the per-gigabyte price for storage hardware declines each year, our comfort level decreases precipitously when we realize that IT will still spend more on hardware this year than last, and even more next year than it did this time around. The sheer mass of data we are accountable for, after all, has a habit of growing whether we tend to it or not.

The implications for IT purchasing when we stop talking about terabytes and begin to speak in terms of petabytes (already the case at a few sites), exabytes, zettabytes, yottabytes and beyond (good grief) should be more than enough to make any CIO, CFO or CEO reach for the aspirin bottle. And as the data we store (and in a relatively few cases, also manage) continues to grow, it's a good bet that while we may begin reaching for the aspirin tomorrow, it won't be long before we have begin to grope for a bottle of a different sort.

Because of this explosion in total data to be stored and despite the fact that the per-gigabyte cost of storage hardware is declining, total capital expenditures (CAPEX) are likely to increase as we make additional outlays to ensure our storage hardware assets keep up - in terms of capacity - with our data requirements.

Information lifecycle management offers one way to address the problem of growing CAPEX. The presence of tiered storage provides the opportunity to assign the most important data to the best storage and services, and to allocate less important data to cheaper (and perhaps older) devices. The decision to buy "good enough" rather than "best in class" should certainly help to offset some of the up-front expense.

Next time, how software investment can reduce some up front costs. After that, on to the meatier matter of reducing operational expenses.

Mike Karp is senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates, focusing on storage, storage management and the methodology that brings these issues into the marketplace. He has spent more than 20 years in storage, systems management and telecommunications.

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