News Analysis

Qualcomm to halve storage growth in 2007

Jo Maitland, News Director
Wireless chip manufacturer Qualcomm expects to halve its storage capacity growth next year, thanks to a utilisation tool from MonoSphere. With 1.2 petabytes already on the floor, this piece of software has been critical, according to Qualcomm's chief information officer, Norm Fjeldheim.

In six months of using MonoSphere's Storage Horizon capacity planning software, Qualcomm has reduced its storage growth by 67%, and next year it expects to drop down to half its existing growth rate of 100% annually. The company declined to say how much this translates to in dollar terms.

"Each chip generates about a terabyte (TB) of data," according to Fjeldheim and with expanding products lines, a growing employee base and more international locations, Qualcomm's storage growth is exploding.

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Conversely, its storage utilisation rates have been poor. At its lowest point, the firm was down to 40% utilisation and its highest point was 62%. "Our goal is to average between 70% to 80% utilisation," Fjeldheim noted.

Qualcomm's databases and business applications run on a Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) storage area network (SAN), which accounts for about 30% of the storage on the floor. The rest is network attached storage (NAS) from Network Appliance (NetApp), which holds all the engineering data. Qualcomm has some direct-attached gear but is gradually migrating off this. During this migration process, the firm discovered MonoSphere, which three years ago was building a storage virtualisation product.

By September 2005, however, MonoSphere had scrapped this effort as no one was buying virtualisation software, and it built a capacity planning tool instead. "We stuck with them as we liked what they were trying to do," said Matt Clark, IT manager for corporate host services at Qualcomm.

With Storage Horizon, Clark said the company is able to track how its storage is being used and who is using it. "Our engineers often say they need more storage but we are able to better predict what their needs are and what they still have," he said. It helps to get financial approval on purchases, too, according to Fjeldheim.

"Engineers doesn't like going through the financial justification process so they ask for more than they need, but this gets expensive," he said. Now he is able to show them a demand curve and in turn show the finance department that engineering really does need another 3 TBs, for example. "Finance signs off on it as they see we are managing it better," Fjeldheim said.

Buying from a startup

Fjeldheim said it's his personal preference never to buy from a new supplier, but none of Qualcomm's existing suppliers, including Symantec on the backup side, had what it needed. He'd like to see MonoSphere add support for capacity usage by application, instead of just business unit, so that he can go to the application users and vary their storage allowance. Tighter integration with LDAP would also be beneficial to measure capacity by user. "And if they could tie in with backup and recovery, we could get a whole picture of our storage environment," Clark added.

Fjeldheim concluded, "my gut tells me we've already paid for the product" by saving on the amount of storage it would've had to buy, had it not been using MonoSphere's product.

Most storage resource management (SRM) tools take a stab at capacity planning, and the key suppliers here are HP with its AppIQ products and change management software supplier, Onaro. Monitoring applications from ServerGraph, TekTools, Wysdm Software, Bocada Software also address this problem.


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