By Scott Hirsh
After having been immersed in networked storage, I’ve had a lot of time to think about infrastructure architecture. The first lesson is that storage (along with networking) is the foundation of an IT architecture. So it stands to reason that an infrastructure that’s built to last will begin with external storage, ideally from a company dedicated to storage with as much heterogeneous operating system support as possible.
What you get from an external storage platform that supports multiple operating systems is the ability to change vendors, hosts, and operating systems with a minimum of fuss. Yes, a migration of any kind is not without its pain, but it’s a lot more painful when all hardware and software is tied to one vendor. That’s a lesson everyone reading this should have learned by now.
Furthermore, these independent storage players have extensive expertise in supporting multiple platforms, including migrating customers from one to another. And frankly, unless you’re contemplating a non-mainstream operating system, networked storage is an excellent investment because it is a best practice for storage vendors to provide ongoing support for any operating system with critical mass.
For example, any HP 3000 users running on Symmetrix will have no problem using that same storage on HP-UX, Solaris, Linux, Wintel, and many others. If you’re running on internal disk, you’re stuck with HP-UX, best case — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The Best Offense is a Good Defense
Here are some quick guidelines that recap the concept of minimizing transfer costs:
Start with a networked storage platform that supports as many operating systems as possible. This is the foundation layer for your IT infrastructure.
The best Total Cost of Ownership in IT is based on consolidation. However, that doesn’t necessarily imply homogeneity. It’s a matter of degree. It’s a matter of physical location as well.
Software drives hardware. Choose DBMS, applications, tools based on support for multiple operating systems and hardware. Be cautious regarding any decision that locks you into one vendor. For example, SQL Server-based solutions, which only run on Wintel, will have higher transfer costs than Oracle.
Keep your vendors honest, but at the same time don’t underestimate the value of a true partnership. One company I consulted for dropped HP after learning that HP felt they “owned” them. Any time one side thinks they have the other over a barrel, there’s bound to be trouble. We’re all in this together.
The Glue That Holds It All Together – You
In the new, defensive, minimum transfer cost environment, IT departments take on the role of systems integrator. That’s the catch for designing maximum flexibility into your environment. The IT staff must make everything work together, and be prepared to shift gears at a moment’s notice. To me, that’s the silver lining to this otherwise dreary story of no loyalty and diminishing options. More than ever, it’s the people who make the difference.
Back in the day, hardware was expensive and people were not. Today, if you're still using your own hardware on-premise, the hardware is cheap and the people are expensive.
Perhaps the greatest legacy of the HP 3000, and what will ensure our continued leadership in IT, is the hard-earned knowledge of what’s a best practice and what is not.