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New Research: Without Proper Systems Testing, IT Teams are Putting their Organizations in Harm’s Way

By Len Rosenthal, CMO 

enterprise strategy groupLast week, we released the results of research on IT professionals’ storage system buying decisions in relation to their application workloads, and we wanted to share a summary of the most notable findings from the research. Without sharing too many spoilers, one of the key findings was that IT teams are putting their IT infrastructures – and businesses as a whole – at risk by failing to profile application workloads and test data storage systems before purchase and deployment.

The research, co-sponsored by Virtual Instruments and a number of other leading storage system providers, was conducted by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) – one of the leading IT research, analyst, strategy and validation firms for the global IT community – and consisted of ESG surveying 412 IT professionals about their approaches to application workload profiling and data storage system testing. Ultimately, understanding and assessing application workload profiles before acquiring storage solutions provides critical insight into what’s truly needed by application end-users. And without taking this critical step of profiling production applications and analyzing their I/O behavior, it can be extremely difficult to properly evaluate and size storage systems – as IT teams lack accurate information regarding the storage performance needed to keep them working optimally, as well as to protect against slow-downs and outages.

However, of the 412 IT professionals surveyed, only 41% said that they plan to profile their workloads before buying their next storage system, and 56% blindly trust either storage vendors or their VARs to make recommendations for them on the right solution. The problem here is that organizations that solely depend on vendor recommendations, or partners who are aligned with specific vendors, could leave their IT teams highly vulnerable. At best, there is a high probability of over-provisioning and related wasted capital expenses, and at worst it can mean a new storage solution is unable to keep up with the organization’s business requirements, thereby leading to lost revenues.

One of the leading factors contributing to IT teams’ lack of insight into application workload behavior is a failure to understand how storage solutions will perform until they’re in production. Indeed, over 70% of the respondents surveyed said they don’t plan on conducting on-premises load testing themselves before their next storage systems purchase. Without understanding how a storage solution might behave under normal, dynamic and anticipated peak load conditions, it’s almost impossible to predict whether that solution is correctly configured to manage that organization’s unique demands. And that will very likely impact the solution’s overall performance – which very quickly takes the problem from one the IT team must worry about, to one that affects everyone across the entire business.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • Storage performance and availability are top priorities: 70% of respondents plan to establish service level agreements (SLAs) with their application owners for either performance and/or availability. For performance, specifically, 43% of respondents will establish performance-related SLAs. Without utilizing both load testing and monitoring, SLA adherence is practically impossible.
  • Monitoring tools are widely used: 94% of respondents indicated that their organization ensures performance and availability by using monitoring tools, and 54% prefer to use vendor-independent monitoring tools. This type of solution analyzes performance across the entire infrastructure, making it much easier to spot performance issues and to understand what may be causing them.
  • Application owners aren’t sufficiently involved in storage decisions: 74% of respondents said their organization’s application owners care about storage deployment decisions, yet only 16% said their application owners are involved in the storage solution deployment decision process. This is a missed opportunity, as collaboration between storage and application teams brings a much better understanding of the overall infrastructure, and each component’s effect on its performance.

These findings should give IT teams plenty to consider as they approach storage solution buying decisions in the future, but if you’re interested in hearing more about this research, we and Mark Peters from ESG will be co-hosting a webinar, “Storage Performance – Building the Right Foundation for Meeting SLAs,” on September 12th, which will discuss the research and new approaches to achieving performance-based SLAs. You can register for the webinar here, and if you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to drop us a line or let’s connect on Twitter – we’re @Virtual_Inst.