I am now my account manager’s favourite client!

I asked our server manufacturer to visit earlier in the year to talk to us about Storage Area Networks. We knew that we wanted one - had made a funding bid for one - and had done some basic research, but we needed a storage expert to come and brief us on the art of the possible. Our account manager duly turned up with a specialist in tow.

“What you should really look to do is to virtualise your servers at the same time” she told me. “Have you thought about that?”

I said that I hadn’t, that I wasn’t convinced by the arguments for consolidation and that in any case I didn’t have the money to do so. I fancy a gleam came in to her eye; she obviously thought she had spotted a weakness. Twenty minutes later she and the specialist had sold me on a project costing 50 percent more than the amount that I had originally budgeted, to virtualise around half of our servers and back then up with a SAN and modular backup device.

At this point you are probably thinking ‘what sort of IT manager is this?’ In my defence I should say that we had also been budgeting for server replacement and for further development of a resilient infrastructure….

…and that’s really the point. I never was convinced – and I’m still not, given the cost of the project – by the early arguments advanced in favour of consolidation… which were mostly that it would lead to big savings because less hardware would be needed. That may be true for large corporates but it certainly isn’t so for SMEs like us. For the money we are investing in expensive SAN, fibrechannel and virtual server hardware we could buy an awful lot of standard servers with big disks.

What sells me on the idea is the ability to a build resilient server and storage infrastructure, and nowadays that counts for a lot. So much in fact that I myself argued the price up another 50 percent by making the case for duplicating the SAN. We have two server rooms and the idea of splitting both virtual servers and storage between them, and configuring for seamless fallback in the event of a catastrophe, really pressed the right buttons. Figuring out that we can also use the technology, along with an ‘insurance’ based deal with a DR company, to give us a recovery path should we lose the whole site - something that we have increasingly to consider in London – sealed the deal.

Now all we have to do is to make it work…