Creating intelligent storage solutions



With, data access and usage going up, and applications like e-mail and ERP
becoming an important tool within an organization, storage has become an
integral part of the IT infrastructure planning. Till now the approach has been
to invest in servers on which the applications run and these servers are, in
turn, attached to storage devices. This approach has created islands of data
storage. And managing a scattered DAS is a nightmare for any CIO.

“Multiple servers and scattered data created a complex storage
environment. How to get maximum value from this network has led organizations to
rethink their network strategy,” says Manoj Chug, president, EMC India
& SAARC. The mindset has changed toward consolidating applications and
servers on a single, intelligent infrastructure.

When, where, and how
Instead of spreading horizontally, efforts have been toward developing
multiple layers of data storage based on the behavior and importance of data.
“There are four broad areas: manageability, availability, performance and
scalability, according to which the CIO plans his storage,” says Shankar
Subramaniam, sales engineer-manager, South-East Asia-Pacific and Korea Brocade
communication. He also adds: “There is no single storage design that can
fit every organization. Designs and solutions vary according to the
requirements”.

The first step towards a storage network is to quantify data and its growth
rate. Once the amount of data on the network has been assessed, the CIO has to
identify how much information needs to be shared and by whom. The information is
then broken down into various categories according to its importance. This gives
him an idea of the online data at any point of time. Based on the data growth
and usage, the number of ports, port connects, device attachments and
connectivity designs are planned.

Data classification is critical to choosing the type of storage architecture
one requires. Tiered storage gives you the flexibility to manage your data
better, and scalability issues are also taken care of. Tiered storage normally
has a combination of fiber channel and ATA drives. Then there are specific
devices for archival purposes. Normally, tapes are being used as the final
resting place for information. As more emphasis is being laid on the management
part, vendors are also incorporating intelligent software to move data across
the storage tiers.

Advantage SAN
Storage is increasingly moving from DAS to network area storage (NAS). And,
within NAS, storage area networks (SAN) are getting the large chunk of the
market share.

“There is a common belief that SANs are complex and expensive. Contrary
to this, SANs enable better management of data and better resource
utilization,” said Leong Kam Hong, product marketing manager, Dell/EMC
storage. SANs work on shared storage space and, hence, give access to multiple
users at the same time. As the number of servers goes down, the manpower used to
maintain them is also reduced. And, the intelligent software, which sits on top
of the SAN, appropriates storage space management.

“Though implementing the first SAN is always difficult, the return on
investment is better than other technologies. Once a SAN is deployed, scaling it
is not difficult, and that advantages makes it inexpensive,” Subramaniam
said.

Forecast
for Disc Storage Systems in India

2003-08 (figures
in $ mn)

 2003200420052006200720082003-08
(CAGR (%)
SAN39.351.46276.192.3105.922
NAS16.816.519.222.626.128.811.4
External
DAS
31.12828.229.229.729.8-0.9
Internal
DAS
42.846.547.146.544.840.7-1
Total129.9142.3156.5174.5192.9205.29.6
%
change
25.29.51011.510.56.4

source:IDC, 2004

In all this maze of technology, IP-SANs are also gathering momentum. As IDC
predicts, 23% of the over all storage market will be on IP-SAN.

Whether fiber channel, or iSCSI, or IP is used in SAN depends on the company’s
policy. Storage experts say that fiber channel being a mature and robust
technology, should be used for mission critical applications. However, iSCSI
gives the flexibility of using the Internet for access and, hence, comes out as
the cheaper solution.

The options
Whether to outsource data storage to a third party data center or to have a
network within the campus, is a business decision an organization has to make.
“If a company is looking for short term data storage, a data center serves
the purpose. But if long-term storage is being planned one should give serious
thought to own the network,” says Leong.

When the frequency of data access is higher and every thing needs to be
online, a personal storage network is desirable. The trend today is to have a
hybrid model. “Most companies have their data disaster recovery network
with a third party and, for the current flowing data, they have their own
environment,” added Chug.

Security
When the storage network is within the organization, it is less prone to
security threats. But when the data is with a data center over a public network,
it is imperative to have some type of check. “There has been no report of a
fiber channel network being hacked, however, security is at the top of his
agenda when a CIO is planning his storage network,” says Subramaniam.

In the western, and many south Asian countries, there are regulations and
mandates to put in place security mechanisms in data centers and disaster
recovery sites. Though there is no such legal binding in India, the storage
vendors have also woken up to the threat and are putting in multi-layer security
protocols in their products.

Anurag Prasad in New
Delhi

Intelligent storage

An estimate shows that almost 80% of the data is not mission critical, and
the remaining 20% gets accessed often. However, a simple storage box cannot
differentiate between mission critical and non-critical data. Increasingly, a
concept, giving the box a mind to differentiate between various types of data,
is being implemented. EMC has been promoting it as ‘information life cycle
management’ and others may simply call it-putting in a tiered architecture
to push the non-critical data to the background.

The intelligence comes from the software that resides over the storage
network and, depending on the priority being set by the user, it assigns a place
to the data on the system.

A tiered architecture would involve various mix and match of technologies to
store data. Fiber channel storage, though costly, is reliable and robust and
forms the first tier where the mission critical data is stored. As more and more
IP-based networks get implemented, fiber can be replaced by IP. For normal data,
which is accessed less frequently, NAS is also an option.

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