Storage and Data Management Planning crucial for Malaysian SMBs

Hybrid IT for 2019 and beyond

2019 is here.

I am especially buoyed by the strong network storage industry footing in 2018, reported by The Register last week. 2018 was certainly a blowout year for storage infrastructure and storage software, both for on-premises and the cloud computing platforms. The AWS Outposts announcement over a month ago also just affirmed that the new world is Hybrid IT. And there is plenty to look forward to in 2019.

Malaysian Economic Doldrums

Things are not as rosy for the Malaysia economy in 2019. It will be a challenging 2019 as reported by the Edge, a local business publication. The GDP (gross domestic product) of the first half of 2018 shrunk, from 5.9% in 2017, to 4.65%, and it is estimated to be 4.9% in 2019. With an inexperienced new government, a weak currency, and more competitive economies emerging in ASEAN, Malaysia small and medium businesses (SMBs) could be challenged.

The knee jerk reaction would be to cut the IT spending and revert to buying on price. This has happened too often, because there are always other operating costs that may be more pressing. Furthermore, many of the SMBs are still aimless when it comes to transforming their businesses into the digital data era, groping in the dark and sputtering to get its worth with their IT investments. Often, many are misinformed and stumbled, resulting in much higher wastage and costs.

There is a local saying here:

Good thing No Cheap; Cheap thing No Good

And the saying is very apt to describe that there is value in investing well, and the price factor should not always be the main determinant criteria of buying IT infrastructure, software and services.

Many of these SMBs also lack experienced IT staff to manage their IT environment. There is also a hurried urgency to modernize IT, because a well-planned and executed IT strategy and operations would definitely increase their Competitive Advantage.

Strategy, Strategy, Strategy

I am always perplexed why many SMBs view storage infrastructure, software and its services in lackadaisical manner. The understanding and the awareness of the storage technologies and the new developments in SMBs could be from the careless attitude of the Malaysian IT professionals who dispense their experience and knowledge to the end users. I described the storage conundrum in the Malaysian Openstack community a few months ago, where the deep understanding of the subject matter was just subpar, despite the strong interest.

An old Malay idiom:

“Seperti ketam mengajar anaknya berjalan betul”

This literally means the parent crab teaching its young how to walk straight. The crab walks sideways, so it is a matter of the blind leading the blind. And this “disease” permeates throughout a big part of the Malaysian IT professionals I have met over the years. I have met seasoned storage professionals who couldn’t describe the difference between storage bandwidth and st0rage throughput. It is an attitude we can do without.

That is why it is crucial to engage with IT professionals who take pride and passion in delivering the storage solutions and invaluable services that come with it. And it starts with the right strategy. I would strongly advise the SMBs to work with resellers or partners who are really knowledgeable in their storage solutions and offerings.

The right strategy starts with the business requirements. What do you want to achieve? What is your business outcome(s)?

Without the right strategy, the outcome can be quite chaotic. I recalled an project we deployed early last year. The customer wanted a VMware backup and we successfully deployed with Unitrends Enterprise Backup (Standard Edition). A month later, the customer came backup and now they wanted the newly installed Unitrends to do backup for 100 or so end points. And Unitrends was not the right fit for end point backups. We spent a lot of time educating and stressing the point that a holistic and more comprehensive strategic approach to their data protection needs, but has fallen to deaf ears.

Similarly, in an existing engagement to win another data protection requirement of another customer, the initial requirement was to backup 2 physical Windows servers. We proposed Unitrends again, both the Essentials and the Enterprise editions, and then after that, the customer said they wanted Unitrends to backup the physical to a vSphere VM for future recovery, but they haven’t bought a VMware vSphere yet. And their most important asset was the NetApp FAS2520, and they were expecting one of the Unitrends editions would backup the NetApp NAS as well.

A poorly designed data protection solution would result in a disjointed and often a miserable integrated total solution that is a mismatch to the business requirements, and a wasteful and reckless operation over years, and the worst, a heavy, heavy cost. The costs could be tangible but it could likely result in a widened gap of IT modernization and digital aspirations of the company.

Without the right strategy of storage and data management, the company, after several years, could discover that their plans and their hodge podge storage investment could be too far apart. Then they will have to go through a cycle of investments and purchases all over again.

Data is at the heart of IT transformation. Data lives in storage infrastructure, optimized by the storage software, and kept running with storage professional services. These cost money and with the right strategy, the investment will help the company grow their Competitive Advantage.

What about the cloud?

Cloud, be it public, private or hybrid cloud, is just part of the strategy. It is just a service model that be subscribed, and in most cases, the storage and data management, and the services costs can be managed more evenly and predictably.

My Own Alphabet Soup

I have constantly used my own approach to storage and data management. It has served as the foundation of my consulting services for data center architecture design for over 25 years. I use them to cover the data points and I can assure that these will cover a big part of how a strategy can be conceived for storage infrastructure, data management software and services in an SMB customer. Here are my alphabets, fondly known as A.P.P.A.R.M.S.C. :

  • Avaibility
  • Performance
  • Protection
  • Accessibility
  • Recovery
  • Management
  • Security
  • Compliance

With these data points, I associate them to businesses requirements, and drilling further down to data center operational and support requirements before linking them to a best fit solution. A simple process which I believe will help any SMB to concoct their own strategy.

Happy New Year!

I have good vibes for the new year. The convergence of NVMe and the fabrics are coming together, harmonizing the storage technology landscape. Storage Class Memory (SCM) is gaining good vibrations, and memory-based area networks could become a reality soon, with the help of RDMA. And the technology developments in storage will thrive with the new applications and workloads brimming the HPC borders.

I believe with the right strategic design into the storage infrastructure, data management software and services, companies can enjoy their investments years into their future.

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About cfheoh

I am a technology blogger with 30 years of IT experience. I write heavily on technologies related to storage networking and data management because those are my areas of interest and expertise. I introduce technologies with the objectives to get readers to know the facts and use that knowledge to cut through the marketing hypes, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and other fancy stuff. Only then, there will be progress. I am involved in SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and between 2013-2015, I was SNIA South Asia & SNIA Malaysia non-voting representation to SNIA Technical Council. I currently employed at iXsystems as their General Manager for Asia Pacific Japan.

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