Cloud, virtualisation shift the storage paradigm

Cloud, virtualisation shift the storage paradigm

Other technology markets may shift and turn, but there is always a need for storage. Data usage and storage requirements continue to grow exponentially, and it all needs to go to disk, with optimal access, security and reliability. Storage vendors today seek to consolidate and integrate silos of storage, confront a wide array of virtualisation issues, and react to the cloud in its many guises - from storage as a service to the massive internal requirements of private clouds.

For resellers, storage provides numerous opportunities to develop a consultative relationship with customers, as well as opening the possibility of increased hardware and software sales. In recessionary times, companies seek to do more with what they have, with storage being an excellent area for improving efficiency and boosting performance at relatively low cost. Resellers need to develop expertise in storage technologies to meet the demands of emerging infrastructure.

Tighter budgets and strict regulatory requirements, coupled with the need for faster, more reliable access to information, are causing customers to re-think their storage environment, according to Phillip Martin, storage works business manager for HP in New Zealand. “The year 2009 was turbulent, with the tough economy forcing many IT departments to re-evaluate storage practices to cope with shrinking budgets. Many companies failed to identify the importance of an efficient storage strategy and the resulting costs were drastic. Exponential data growth coupled with new, powerful storage and server devices that demand more power and cooling are causing the perfect storm in the datacentre. At the same time, organisations face tighter IT budgets and fewer qualified staff, datacentre managers are expected to do more than ever.”

Though many believe the economic outlook for 2010 looks promising, there is still considerable uncertainty. This means companies need to change how they operate and position themselves for future business growth.

“Data storage is an issue that faces almost all organisations,” says Martin. “As the business grows, so does the amount of data needed to be stored on the network. IT departments, regardless of size, can expect data growth rates to increase 40 to 60 percent over the next year, even more so for companies implementing Web 2.0, cloud and high performance environments. If handled improperly, businesses can find themselves spending two to five times more in hardware and increased operational costs with five to six staff members managing several hundred terabytes of storage.”

For many organisations, the ongoing administration and maintenance of existing storage infrastructure can consume the lion’s share of their IT budgets. To accommodate data growth, businesses need to invest in highly scalable, flexible and cost effective technologies that efficiently manage increasing petabytes of storage capacity.

“By consolidating infrastructure management, companies can reduce IT expenses and increase efficiency by freeing resources to focus strategic business priorities rather than maintenance,” says Martin. “A converged infrastructure eliminates costly and complex siloed IT environments by unifying individual stacks of storage, servers and networking into a single virtualised environment, enabling businesses to focus on innovation and driving growth. Storage plays a critical role in the converged infrastructure by allowing clients to virtualise data and create a unified Virtual Resource Pool, which is instantly accessible for changing business needs.”

Maximising enterprise data storage capacity is more important than ever before. With the majority of storage budgets unable to keep pace with data growth rates, companies need to find ways to reduce capital and operating expenses.

“In general, before adding new capacity, companies should focus on making better use of their already installed capacity,” says Martin. “To accomplish this, companies can improve the efficiency of their storage systems using tiered storage and data classification. Storage virtualisation is a key enabler of non-disruptive data movement and tiering. It helps clients overcome the odious tasks of data classification and physically moving data between tiers.”

EMC covers the full range of storage, from SOHO to enterprise. “New Zealand companies are still experiencing a massive growth in the amount of digital data that they are keeping,” says local chief technology officer Arron Patterson. “An IDC survey predicts that the global amount of data will grow 44-fold in the next 10 years and, as the world will create and move more than one Zetabyte of data this year, it’s a problem that is growing rapidly.

“The future is to have storage systems that use Enterprise Flash Devices (EFDs) to provide cost and energy efficient input/output operation, and large capacity low cost drives for bulk storage; we are currently testing drives in the 3TB range. To enable this model of operation the storage system must dynamically monitor and control the use of these devices to provide both optimum capacity and performance. Allied to this, the amount of automation and the very nature of how storage is administered will change. Today, storage specialists understand workloads and I/O profiles and how to match them to RAID types and disk technologies. Tomorrow, the storage system needs to do that via automation, while the administrator sets and monitors policies that maximise use of the storage service for their specific requirements.”

In New Zealand, most IT professionals have developed a generalised range of skills without the depth of knowledge that is enjoyed by specialists. In storage, small and medium size businesses have quickly adopted the newer technologies with built-in automation to compensate for the lack of special expertise in the area.

“New Zealand IT professionals have always been quick to identify changes in the technology market that can provide real benefits and adopt these quickly,” says Patterson. “We saw this with the adoption of virtualisation and now with this change to the storage systems we are seeing a similar acceleration in adoption.”

For resellers, the trends towards server virtualisation and automation of storage provide new opportunities to demonstrate value-add to customers. Resellers can now offer complete solutions to smaller customers and they can help medium-size businesses transform from an IT model of layers, to a consolidated, virtualised and automated environment.

“The proliferation of cloud and managed services is a challenge for all customers in deciding strategies for today, and in future,” says Patterson. “This new paradigm for consumption of IT will challenge our industry from the ground up - and the reseller has the opportunity to advise, consolidate these services and help the customer adopt them and gain best value from them.”

Another vendor with a strong storage focus is Hitachi Data Systems. “The growth rate of storage and the demand on storage infrastructures continue to intensify as we are bombarded with videos, emails, images and other data on a daily basis,” says ANZ presales and solutions director Adrian De Luca. “As a result, the storage market has been particularly resilient over the past year showing positive growth. Unlike the server market where replacement can be deferred, the need for storage continues to grow in organisations. Customers have been looking to technologies like thin provisioning and data deduplication to slow down the rate of growth in their organisation and to keep budgets under control.”

The cloud is capturing overwhelming attention from organisations. As vendors and services providers announce their offerings, customers are starting to evaluate their options in running IT on a traditional procurement-and-maintenance model, or shifting less critical applications into the cloud. In response, over the past 18 months Hitachi Data Systems has been investing in making its solutions “cloud ready” by announcing enhancements to its complete set of hardware and software solutions.

“We are now seeing storage as a service evolving out of the large enterprise and government arena and into the lower end of the market,” says De Luca. “For example, Hitachi Data Systems announced a private file tiering service and public online storage offering with partner, Digi-Data to help organisations of all sizes safely tap storage resources in the cloud at their own pace.

Storage growth, inability to manage static or shrinking IT budgets and compliance/regulations in certain industry sectors are all immediate issues facing most organisations. Sales teams need to understand industry sector problems better and ask these leading questions

“Thin provisioning technology is being actively rolled out as the technology has matured and proven reliable,” says De Luca. “Data duplication in the backup and secondary storage environment is also getting traction with customers replacing legacy tape libraries with de-dupe appliances incorporating low cost SATA/SAS disk or rolling out the functionality into their backup software products. An emerging driver is reducing power consumption and reducing use of valuable real estate in the datacentre. The cost of powering and cooling the datacentre continues to rise sharply - once seen as an insignificant cost of the datacentre, it is now starting to bite organisations that have a sprawling infrastructure.”

Compellent is a specialty international storage vendor operating in New Zealand. The Compellent vision is what it calls the “Fluid Data environment”. A Fluid Data environment ensures the automated movement and management of information to adapt to changing business conditions and changes in the virtual data centre infrastructure. It is a dynamic storage architecture, capable of being adjusted automatically as business processes evolve and as new applications or virtualised servers are added to the network.

“With data storage growth exploding and the many consumers and business organisations looking towards new technologies and services to meet their future capacity, the Compellent SAN, storage capacity, servers and applications can be automatically provisioned, deployed and adapted in response to changing business conditions or the deployment of new applications,” says ANZ director Craig Stockdale. “In combination with server virtualisation platforms such as VMware and Hyper-V, storage capacity can be dynamically allocated based on policies the systems administrator sets, so that the appropriate amount of storage is reserved for business-critical applications allowing servers and applications to be deployed quickly.”

Compellent virtualises storage at the disk level, accelerating data access by spreading read/write operations across all drives so multiple requests are processed in parallel. “You can create high performance, efficient virtual volumes in seconds without allocating drives to specific servers, without complicated capacity planning and without performance tuning,” says Stockdale. “Remove the limitations of physical drives and dynamically change and scale your virtualised pool without disruption or downtime.”

An immediate growth phase in storage is being driven by technologies like virtualisation and mobile technologies, driving data growth in the enterprise and new services via the cloud.

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