“You need HOW MUCH for storage?!” That question has been heard by many of us currently submitting budgets for the next calendar year, quickly followed by “Are you SURE you need that much disk? Didn’t we just get disk last year? Where did they all go!? I want your house audited. Now!”
Okay, maybe not the audit part, but for most of us, getting the type of disk we need in the quantity we need it is an uphill battle. Add SSD, deduplication, and longer-term retention to the mix, and things are getting a bit hairy with my budgetary requests. I’m at such a point now with a few of my smaller clients, and when they get that “you’re crazy” look, I bring up the chargeback model.
I think I just heard a collective sigh from the interwebs.
I understand both sides of the chargeback dilemma: the accounting side, that has to somehow keep track of all this without keeping track of all this; and the IT side, that is constantly being painted as the cost center only because no one is taking ownership of their parts of the “plumbing.” People (read departments) will request outrageous resources when they don’t have to directly foot the bill. That part I get, but are they so vehemently against accounting for their infrastructure usage?
In my opinion, chargeback would actually lead to better data management habits — at least in the long term — because if you have to pay for everything out of your own budget, then you’ll be more careful about separating what you need from what you want. How many of our managers and accounting folks have processes in place to account for each department’s use of the “utilities” that make up IT and understand that IT isn’t the root of all expenses?
I had an energetic debate with a co-worker about this very issue. I took the stance that chargeback is the way to go. He offered a more community-oriented accounting method. We went back and forth, point and counterpoint, until concluding that it just depends on what your business environment will support and the level of organization that business has in place.
For instance, if you have a well-organized, project-oriented IT environment, and have a project portfolio ready for sizing, you can plan a community budget very well and effectively fund addition to your infrastructure through a single IT budget. The reality from <i>my</I> experience (read, SMB clients) is that most companies are not so well-organized, don’t have a project portfolio for the next 12 months, and will not be able to identify budgetary requirements for infrastructure improvements.
In these cases, chargeback (or, at the very least, departmental accounting) is key to being able to answer my opening question with confidence.
Traditional SAN storage may be easy to bill for, but what of virtualized storage? Take it a step further, how about Softricity/Microsoft’s Softgrid? (Softricity is the company Microsoft acquired not too long ago that allows for application-level virtualization as opposed to host virtualization.) How do you quantify and itemize a streamed, virtualized application?
Then there’s the question floating just below the surface of the chargeback debate: How do I, as a department, know you are giving me what I’m being “billed” for? That question opens a giant can of worms in my mind (and there are already creepy crawlies up there, no need to add worms to the mix).
The crux of what I’m getting at is: Are we as technologists — and storage pros specifically — asking for too much or too little when it comes to chargeback? Are there still companies out there that don’t see the light when it comes to chargeback and departmental accounting. Should we as storage pros be leading the way for other areas of IT to follow our example?