The $5 budget challenge

The ever-decreasing cost of storage might look like a useful development for the cash-strapped IT manager, but in fact the falling bucks per gigabyte figure can carry a hidden sting in the tail.

The ever-decreasing cost of storage might look like a useful development for the cash-strapped IT manager, but in fact the falling bucks per gigabyte figure can carry a hidden sting in the tail.

I was reminded of this during a presentation by Jonathan Martin, chief marketing officer for HP's information management division, during the company's Software Universe conference in Barcelona this week.

Discussing the concept of "information addiction" due to the relatively low cost of storage and processing, Martin pulled out an interesting figure: for every $1 you directly spend on storage, you're likely to spend another $5 on associated services such as indexing and management.

If true, this is going to lead to some depressing times for storage managers. Even management types who are entirely ignorant of technology are probably vaguely aware that the raw cost of storage is getting lower, and they're likely to set your budgets accordingly.

Simon Elisha, head solutions architect for Hitachi Data Systems, described this as the "Green Guide effect": some finance wonk reads an advertisement for a $150 320GB external drive, and automatically assumes that this means all business storage should be just as cheap, if not cheaper. (Non-Melbourne readers can substitute the "Icon effect" or whatever tech guide dominates their local city newspaper.)

The paradox, of course, is that as the volumes of data get bigger, you need more sophisticated software to ensure that information is accessible, properly indexed, and suitably backed up. And numerous open source efforts notwithstanding, sophisticated software still generally costs big bucks.

Sure, you might be saving on the terabytes, but keeping those babies under control costs money. Lottsa money.

That doesn't mean that decreasing raw storage costs are a bad thing: at least if we're saving money there, we might get to spend the money elsewhere on decent management systems.

The key word is might.

In the meantime, don't let your finance manager near a newspaper if you can possibly avoid it.

Angus Kidman travelled to Barcelona as a guest of HP.

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