Smaller pizzas should mean leaner, smarter storage

Storage professionals need to prioritise projects that squeeze more data into fewer storage assets using less staff as economic uncertainty threatens to cut IT budgets

America's pizzas are shrinking, and it's a fact that storage professionals on this side of the Atlantic, need to take note of. No, really - what appears to be good news for US waistlines in Domino's Pizza's new 'value menu' is in fact a sign of decreased consumer spending in that economy. And as we know, what happens in the US usually gets here before too long.

In this case, not too long at all. The credit crunch which began last August in the US has now taken hold globally. It has made borrowing more difficult for institutions and individuals alike, which means on the one hand fewer funds for investment and on the other a drying up of loan-driven consumer purchasing. At the same time businesses and consumers are also being squeezed by increased commodity prices driven by demand from China's growing economy.

There are good reasons to think IT and storage in particular can withstand hard times
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Add to this measures unseen since the 1930s taken by US and UK central banks to inject cash into the system and it makes for an uncertain future – as witnessed by the flight of investors to gold last week. All of which creates a climate of smaller corporate budgets, tighter consumer spending and smaller pizzas.

But, what does it all mean for IT, and for storage in particular?

On the face of it there's not too much to be happy about. Shrinking levels of economic activity are not good for business. Retail spending is suffering and job losses have started in some verticals. In the financial sector, for example, several thousand UK jobs have already been lost and layoffs of 10,000 this year in the City of London are predicted. Other sectors may follow suit as economic activity slows.

In short there's less money around and that will translate into smaller budgets. But at the same time there are good reasons to think IT and storage in particular can withstand hard times. Firstly, IT departments learned key lessons from the slump following the dotcom boom and are already used to operating in lean budgetary terms. Also, volumes of data are growing and legal obligations to retain data – and to retain it in ways that can be verified – are multiplying.

Recessions bring opportunities to those with foresight and in some ways the trends already under way are well-suited to the economic situation we may encounter in the coming period. Chiefly this means the ongoing efforts by enterprises to get more from less in storage – to achieve greater utilisation on fewer platforms with data matched to media of appropriate cost, and all managed by fewer people.

That means if you still haven't transitioned fully to centralised storage, you should certainly be thinking about it as it will only become more difficult to manage your existing set up as data volumes and compliance obligations increase. And, if you have moved to dedicated storage networks you should think about tweaking your set up to make the most of the infrastructure – know what data you hold and rationalise it; consolidate multiple SANs; increase utilisation through virtualisation, thin provisioning and data deduplication, and; aim for greater efficiency throughout the tiers of storage by implementing information lifecycle management. At the same time as working smarter all these project s also offer the possibility of working greener by saving power and cooling bills.

All of these projects are of course dependent on the effect of recession on your organisation and as yet it is impossible to know the likely extent of future financial turbulence. So, the key is to be prepared. Late last year Gartner recommended having two IT budgets drawn up - one that assumes business as usual, the other a 'recession budget' which projects a decrease in IT spending of at least 10 per cent below 2007 levels.

That's good advice, but at the same time it is well worth looking beyond simple budget savings and looking at the options you have available to rationalise so that you can do more with less storage and less staff time. In other words, while America's pizzas get smaller, your storage should get leaner, smarter and greener too.

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