In The End, You Have to Clean.

Lori and I have a large technical reference library, both in print and electronic. Part of the reason it is large is because we are electronics geeks. We seriously want to know what there is to know about computers, networks, systems, and development tools. Part of the reason is that we don’t often enough sit down and decide to pare the collection down by those books that no longer have a valid reason for sitting on our (many) bookshelves of technical reference. The collection runs the gamut from the outdated to the state of the art, from the old stand-byes to the obscure, and we’ve been at it for 20 years… So many of them just don’t belong any more. One time we went through and cleaned up. The few books we got rid of were not only out of date (mainframe pascal data structures was one of them), but weren’t very good when they were new.

And we need to do it again.From where I sit at my desk, I can see an OSF DCE reference, the Turbo Assembler documentation, A Perl 5 reference, a MicroC/OS-II reference, and Mastering Web Server Security. All of which are just not relevant anymore. There’s more, but I’ll save you the pain, you get the point.

The thing is, I’m more likely to take a ton of my valuable time and sort through these books, recycling those that no longer make sense unless they have sentimental value - Lori and I wrote an Object Oriented Programming book back in 1996, that’s not going to recycling – than you are to go through your file system and clean the junk out of it.

Two of ten…

Funny thing happens in highly complex areas of human endeavor, people start avoiding ugly truths by thinking they’re someone else’s problem. In  my case (and Lori’s), I worry about recycling a book that she has a future use for. Someone else’s problem syndrome (or an SEP field if you read Douglas Adams) has been the source of tremendous folly throughout mankind’s history, and storage at enterprises is a prime example of just such folly.

Now don’t bet me wrong, I’ve been around the block, responsible for an ever-growing pool of storage, know that IT management has to worry that the second they start deleting unused files they’re going to end up in the hotseat because someone thought they needed the picture of the sign in front of the building circa 1995… But if IT (who owns the storage space) isn’t doing it, and business unit leaders (who own the files on the storage) aren’t doing it… Well, you’re going to have a nice big stack of storage building up over the next couple of years. Just like the last couple.

I could – and will - tell you that you can use our ARX product to help you solve the problem, particularly with ARX Cloud Extender and a trusted cloud provider, by shuffling out to the cloud. But in the longer term, you’ve got to clean up the bookshelf, so-to-speak. ARX is very good at many things, but not making those extra files disappear. You’re going to pay for more disk, or you’re going to pay a cloud provider until you delete them.

I haven’t been in IT management for a while, but if I were right now, I’d get the storage guys to build me a pie-chart showing who owns how much data, then gather a couple of outrageous examples of wasted space (a PowerPoint that is more than five years old is good, better than the football pool for marketing from ten years ago, because PowerPoint uses a ton more disk space), and then talk with business leaders about the savings they can bring the company by cleaning up. While you can’t make it their priority, you can give them the information they need. If marketing is responsible for 30% of the disk usage on NAS boxes (or I suppose unstructured storage in general, though this exercise is more complex with mixed SAN/NAS numbers, not terribly more complex), and you can show that 40% of the files owned by Marketing haven’t been touched in a year… That’s compelling at the C-level. 12% of your disk is sitting there just from one department with easy to identify unused files on it.

Some CIOs I’ve known have laid the smackdown – “delete X percent by Y date or we will remove this list of files” is actually from a CIOs memo – but that’s just bad PR in my opinion. Convincing business leaders that they’re costing the company money – what’s 12% of your NAS investment for example, plus 12% of the time of the storage staff dedicated to NAS – is a much better plan, because you’re not the bad guy, you’re the person trying to save money while not negatively impacting their jobs.

So yeah, install ARX, because it has a ton of other benefits, but go to the bookshelf, dust off that copy of the Fedora 2 Admin Guide, and finally put it to rest. That’s what I’ll be doing this weekend, I know that.

Published Oct 05, 2011
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