Cashing in on the data boom

Cashing in on the data boom

The capacity of the average storage device doubles every year, while the cost per megabyte consistently falls. This means the amount of disk storage available is now astounding — yet data storage requirements have largely kept up. Rich media, digitisation of ever widening territories of business and personal data, legal data storage requirements and Web 2.0 applications are all contributors to a data explosion.

All of this storage needs to be managed, with gaining efficiency out of storage systems along with supporting infrastructure and software emerging as important drivers, as companies seek to cut costs and improve resource usage. Resellers need to raise the level of the storage conversation to take advantage of emerging trends.

EMC is a giant of the storage market, offering solutions for corporates through to SMEs and to the consumer end of the range (with Iomega). “There is little distinction these days between large companies and small companies in the challenges that they face,” says product marketing director Clive Gold.

“The one constant is that data just keeps growing. Smaller organisations have moved into doing things electronically and are now facing the same challenges as large organisations, only on a different scale. The cost of basic storage keeps coming down. But storage fares well in times of economic distress. If you don’t upgrade a server, you can wait, but if you run out of storage it’s ‘game over’.”

Gold sees the three top trends as:

• Efficiency: saving power with new technologies such as use of flash storage devices, lower powered discs and elimination of the inefficiencies.

• Building expertise into systems: automating processes to avoid hiring specialists and simplifying the use of storage resources.

• Using everything: customers need to be able to choose a variety of solutions and plug them in as needed.

“Server virtualisation is having a dramatic impact on storage,” says Gold. “Virtualisation images neatly encapsulate the operating system and applications in an image which resides on storage. However, storage is not designed to work in a virtualised environment. You can now add 100 servers overnight and they all need resources. We have released a new design for all of our storage, to improve server virtualisation and aid in moving virtual servers.”

“The drive for storage is constant,” says Gold. “Data sets grow richer and richer with high resolution photos and multimedia. Upcoming technology includes thin provisioning and flash drives. If the price drop for flash drives continues, it will totally transform the storage market.”

EMC is expecting to have significant new technologies coming out soon. The company has recently refreshed its high-end storage array and is putting much more automation into storage.

“Resellers need to be more consultative and look at removing risk for customers,” says Gold. “Major trends in storage include server virtualisation, which has large benefits. Customers can save 50 percent in energy costs. But the reseller must be able to sit with customers and think more broadly about things like energy consumption, consolidation of storage and virtual servers. You need to help customers set up a plan and use the savings from that plan to fund the next project.”

The HP storage portfolio includes the equipment needed by the largest enterprise through to small-office backup devices. “The most important areas for us in New Zealand are the SAN array business and products for data protection,” says HP StorageWorks marketing manager Eric Freeman.”

Freeman sees the top current trends as:

• Storage consolidation: a trend that started before, but is now accelerating.

• Disk-based backup: a consequence of huge growth in disk capacity.

• Tiering of data storage requirements: putting most critical data in fibre channel and less critical data in less costly storage.

“There are also a few trends that are at the very start of development,” says Freeman. “These include solid-state storage and low-cost, SAS-based architecture. The market driver for storage growth is development of data storage requirements for all businesses. Growth has long been at 50 percent per annum. Now some companies are forced to retain data for long periods and this increases managed storage requirements. The storage market benefits from this.”

In New Zealand, the Public Records Act of 2005 is now coming up to its first audit and local governments must have mechanisms to store data on an ongoing basis. They are now looking for solutions, with a follow-on effect for companies that do business with the government.

Freeman believes the key to storage sales is in keeping up with education and solution knowledge. Key personnel with skills in this area are required, but it’s hard to find sales and technical capabilities in the same person. Companies can often benefit from a team approach to a storage opportunity. “The process of selling storage is consultative. Part of that process is to develop an ROI. An organisation won’t spend $100 to save $10.”

CommVault is a leading data management and data backup company that provides a strong solution to the local market. “We have a single product [Simpana 8] that addresses many data management situations, including replication archiving storage resource management and so forth. It’s built into a single engine with a single GUI. We manage data through an entire lifecycle, including providing disaster recovery, and we can analyse data to determine trends and report how storage is being used,” says Asia/Pacific/Japan channel director Gemma Noakes.

“There’s a more conservative feel in the market,” says Noakes. “But our software has a strong ROI story for customers. The focus is now upon cost savings and different ways companies can reduce IT spend. There’s a real interest in doing the same, or better, with less. Lots of customers are having their capex budgets slashed and are using operational budgets instead. Adding efficiency by doing things smarter is an advantage for us, as we provide a single product. Fewer skills are needed and there are fewer integration issues, so our customers can consolidate storage resources.”

CommVault has a renewed focus on the channel here, with Noakes having recently been hired to take over the channel programme and put it into high gear.

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is a major player in the storage sector coming out of Japan. It has been moving to reinvigorate its channel programme recently and is rolling out a range of new products. “Current trends in this market include two major dynamics,” says A/NZ channel manager Steve Kelly. “First is an explosion in unstructured data with the challenge of scaling to meet these requirements, while at the same time remaining cost effective. The next major dynamic is the need to reduce power and cooling. Virtualisation is also an emerging trend in the datacentre. “

Kelly is seeing consolidation in storage, an explosion in data and industry consolidation. Vendors are exploring additional capabilities. De-duplication is now strong in the market.

“Archiving is emerging as an important area,” says Kelly. “It is now necessary to maintain digital integrity of data that must be stored for many years. Archive data also needs to be untampered with and accessible in real time, and it is important to be able to search the archive. The archiving requirement is starting to come to New Zealand. Legislative rules are in effect on keeping data and managing privacy and on access to that data. “

For resellers, Kelly recommends talking to customers around storage. “A common mistake is to start and end at storage,” he says. “It is important to talk about the application environment and the business environment, understanding how transactions flow through the business. Expand the discussion. Storage is behind all business interactions and you need to map to that discussion. The conversation should not stop at the cost of an array, but should go on to include how to manage data, optimise access, include data recovery and so forth. HDS can provide depth in having that discussion. We also have some tools that we can make available that help assess cost of storage.”

Sun Microsystems (now being acquired by Oracle) provides a wide range of storage products from entry-level to large scale storage environments. “Businesses are facing unprecedented storage growth,” says A/NZ systems business director Anthony Clarke. “Anecdotally, Sun estimates storage requirements for local businesses are doubling year-on-year due to the increase in online content and unstructured data in an organisation. The move to digital data has had a huge impact on the need for more flexible and cost-effective storage systems.

“In addition, the industry as a whole is calling for greater efforts in sustainable IT and therefore, storage that draws less power and requires less cooling is in great demand. Legislation is also impacting the growth of data being stored and an organisation’s reluctance to delete anything.”

Clarke believes there has been a fundamental shift in the storage environment. IT managers are being asked to do more with less and with the growth in data they are looking at more cost effective ways to manage the environment and scale as required.

Consequently, there is much greater analysis of what is being spent on IT. It is no longer the case that everything can be stored on tier 1 disk.

“Server virtualisation is driving the adoption of larger, more powerful systems where customers run several applications within a single physical server,” says Clarke. “In the past, the demands of software have exceeded the capabilities of the hardware, but today, in the era of multicore and multi-CPU systems, software is often the bottle neck in performance.

“The consequence to local resellers is that customers no longer just want a box, they want a solution. Resellers have to upskill their sales and technical pre-sales force to have discussions around business requirements and architectural solutions, rather than “how many CPUs?” and “How much RAM?”.

“The benefits of this selling approach is that resellers get to add their own value to each sales opportunity, consequently generating more revenue from each sales engagement and generally raising the sales bar all around.”

IBRS is an Australia-based consultancy that focuses upon the storage sector. “Companies are not optimising what they have,” says advisor Dr. Kevin McIsaac. “It is important to carefully review and optimise storage. Businesses need to run an audit, find out what they have, then determine where there is an over allocation, and fix it. We have introduced a new storage capacity and utilisation auditing service. From the audit, we find the space that is not being used and free it up. This allows companies to increase utilisation and delay purchasing storage. It is a vendor independent auditing service. “

Current trends are toward improved provisioning though thin provisioning and pool-based allocation. “This increases utilisation and reduces storage administration costs,” says McIsaac.

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Female leaders honoured at Reseller News Women in ICT Awards in 2022

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