Going Soft on Storage



The managing director of company XYZ is looking for additional storage
capacity as its business on the Web is growing. So the super administrator
decides to use the best available tools–the storage resource management and
data protection software. He makes the necessary requisition on the storage area
management system. The storage node manager soon works out the capacity required
and pops the map of the storage area network (SAN). The software then passes the
request to the storage accountant, which keeps record of the sanctioned storage
capacity and its location. The storage area manager software then sends the
storage request to storage builder, which in turn recognizes the space and
indicates that it is available by forwarding the request to the storage
optimizer. The optimizer further analyzes the exact nature of storage required
based on factors like high availability, fast Web use and access and gives a
green signal. Next, the software sends a request to the storage allocation
software that not only assigns the requisite storage but also ensures its
security.

All this is done within minutes of the request and without causing any
breakdown of services. Also, in case the company XYZ has outsourced the service
to a storage service provide, the super administrator can also let the storage
allocation software send details to the storage accountant and bill the company
within the same time frame.

If you thought this is a typical scene from some hi-fi future office, you are
right. However, experts suggest that the problem with the storage industry today
is that it is becoming cheaper to buy and harder to manage. Application demands
are growing exponentially and dynamically, making management policies hard to
understand and define. And while common computing platforms–from Unix to NT,
and Linux–offer varying levels of storage management capabilities, they are
still quite immature in their management offerings and it is here that the
biggest opportunity exists. As the value of data increases, the need to manage
it more effectively escalates. Currently, numerous estimates suggest that the $5
billion plus storage software market is expected to exceed $14 billion in annual
revenues by 2004.

100% growth, and growing
According to an IDC India report, the storage management software market in
India has increased exponentially by 74%–from $8.5 million in 2000 to $14.8
million in 2001. Talking about the key market trends beyond year 2002, the
market research company suggests that the demand for storage management software
will be triggered off by the drop in prices for storage devices, which is
expected to stimulate the purchasing cycle. Also, large enterprises are expected
to improve their business processes by investing in enterprise applications that
will encourage demand for storage devices and storage management software.

Best Practices Index
Deploy
enterprise wide data protection / storage management, rather than
departmental storage management
Implement
storage management software in a highly available environment providing
increased accessibility of data
Implement 
storage  management  software  to 
leverage existing IT infrastructure which should 
be capable of seamlessly integrating into newer storage
technologies like SAN and NAS
Reduce 
the  cost 
of  ownership by
implementing  storage 
management with a ‘lights-out’ and ‘hands-off’ approach to
contain the operational costs
It should
have an intuitive interface like a Web browser manageable from anywhere
Should have
efficient disaster recovery capabilities
The storage
management software should support multiple operating systems,
applications and databases
Implement a
storage management solution for high performance, including streaming of
multiple streams of data to backup devices
Source:
Legato Systems India

What this means is that the future is closer than one can think, with the
likes of Veritas, Legato, EMC, IBM, CA and HP working hard to achieve a
manageable storage ecosystem. With the explosion of digital information, and the
corresponding need to grow storage capacity, IT organizations are trying to gain
control over the storage environment. As a result, the industry has been
searching for the right paradigm to take storage from a dedicated,
direct-attached state where storage space is unshared and unmanaged into a
networked state where all storage resources on the network are available for use
by all host computers.

Says Bithin Talukdar, HP India’s marketing development and alliance manager
for its software global business unit, "The challenge today is about
managing the migration from direct-attached to peer-to-peer storage networks.
This is where storage management software has an important role to play."

The management gap
An excellent example of the growing storage management gap is highlighted in
a report by Michael Peterson of Strategic Research Corporation titled ‘The
Future of the Business Network’. The report states that the management gap has
become huge and without profound change in management tools, it will be
insurmountable. The management gap widens as storage demand grows faster than
storage management capability. In 2000, the average storage administrator could
manage on the average 300-500 gigabytes.

The report projects that in 2005, the average storage administrator should be
capable of managing about 4.5 terabytes while the average site capacity will
have grown to over 50 terabytes. Since there clearly is no oversupply or even
growth in the number of storage administrators, the gap widens. This issue
describes the impending infinite disruption in the storage industry and without
significant changes and improvements in storage management software, the
tradeoffs of not managing storage could be fatal. Just think, what if those
companies in lower Manhattan after September 11 hadn’t implemented adequate
backup and recovery strategies?

According to experts, storage software not only makes it easier for
organizations to manage their information and further accelerate the deployment
of open storage networks, it also helps companies dramatically reduce TCO. This
will enable them to get the most out of their storage assets, and more
importantly, improve interoperability, while enabling companies to focus on
improving their business processes and competitiveness.

The advanced functionality provided by software and storage management
software plays a vital role in administering distributed IT assets, maintaining
high availability and minimizing downtime. The effective management of resources
from the data center across the network increases both productivity and revenue.
Storage software of the future will also address administrative costs, downtime,
back up and recovery, as well as hardware management.

Management ease, better RoI
Gartner Dataquest defines storage management software as the tool needed to
manage capacity, performance and availability of data stored on disks, tapes and
optical devices and the networking devices that the data may pass through.
Echoes Computer Associates CTO Rohit Ghai, "In simple terms, storage
management software is a tool that manages your storage ecosystem, including the
hardware and the software solutions–from data protection (backup and restore)
to storage resource management and storage infrastructure (including
replication, and file system management)." Adds IBM India’s (enterprise
systems group) country manager M Ganesh, "Storage software helps you
efficiently manage every aspect of an organizations’ storage resources and
allows an organization to address issues concerning disaster tolerance, data
consolidation, data availability and data sharing."

To make things simple, let’s understand what storage means in the IT world.
Computer storage is the holding of data in an electromagnetic form for access by
a computer processor and can be divided into primary and secondary types. While
primary storage comprises data in random access memory and other ‘built-in’
devices, secondary storage can be defined as the data on disks, tapes, and other
external devices. While primary storage is much faster to access because of the
proximity of the storage to the processor or because of the nature of the
storage devices, secondary storage can hold much more data.

However, today’s computer storage needs have evolved from simply backing up
on a tape to pulling data from multiple heterogeneous environments across the
enterprise and managing these functions from a central vantage point.

According to Veritas Software Solutions’ India country manager Agendra
Kumar, "There has been a dramatic shift toward designing and building full
storage architectures and storage software is increasingly being regarded as the
key to unlock the potential of data and information to realize maximum business
value and returns on investment." Sums up Legato Systems Indiae country
manager Nikhil Madan, "Storage hardware is the platform and storage
software is the intelligence." So what is the rule for determining the
storage needs of an organization and hence the investment?

Business drives the need
"The need for storage management tools will vary depending on what the
company does," remarks Talukdar.

Experts suggest that storage spending cannot be seen as an island distant
from the rest of the business. Rather, storage needs to be taken as part of the
overall solution because advanced functionality provided by such software plays
a vital role in administering distributed IT assets, maintaining high
availability, and minimizing downtime. The effective management of resources
across the network also has a positive bearing on both productivity and revenue.
Hence companies need to first define their business goals.

Attributes of Good Storage Software
Enables mobility, allowing easy migration of data, by demand or policy, between logical and physical locations
Innocuous, allowing transparent expansion
Behaves elastically, allowing expansion and contraction without application interruption
Performs persistently, always-on-always available until it is removed from management control
Operates in a secure manner, where data is protected from unauthorized access
Is economical, where the total cost of management decreases as storage sizes increase
Is
responsive, so that performance service level parameters are met
Has instant visibility, so that authorized users have access to data, regardless of the storage infrastructure.
Delivers automation, thus reducing the chances of failure due to workmanship or other such administrative issues of managing large amounts of data
Source: HP India

According to Talukdar, one of the biggest mistakes a company can commit is to
look at storage as a separate item to spend money on. "The spending on
storage must be in relation to the business requirements and the rest of the IT
infrastructure. IT is changing the way business is delivered and the way it is
consumed within an enterprise. Hence an organization’s storage strategy and
the selection of the right software depends on the phase of business
transformation an organization is going through."

Adds Ghai, "Organizations need to first work out the volume and
criticality of data to be backed up and the backup window available, beside the
need to find the volume of existing data and the expected growth in volume.
Distribution of data across the enterprise, information on applications and data
generated by these applications besides availability of network bandwidth (LAN
and WAN) and availability of skilled staff and funds also needs to be worked out
before deciding on the storage strategy."

Comments nStor Technologies’ software and solutions product manager Jim
Fernandes, "No matter how you look at it, the powerful and efficient
management of storage resources is critical for maximizing business productivity
and reducing administration costs. As IT managers continue to be faced with
exploding amounts of data to store, secure, and make continuously available
across the enterprise, the industry is assured of a continuing worldwide demand
for effective storage management tools."

SHUBHENDU PARTH in New Delhi

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