NEW ERA OF INGENUITY UNLEASHED…
From STORAGE Magazine Vol 10, issue 1 - February 2010
Mankind's thirst for beating back the boundaries of what is possible seemingly knows few limits. Editor Brian Wall asks where the storage industry is heading as we progress through 2010 and beyond
In Arthur C. Clarke's 'Space Odyssey' series, the appearance of a mysterious monolith in prehistoric times is responsible for awakening intelligence in humankind. Three million years later, human ingenuity has sprouted the ability to awaken intelligence in silicon, as evidenced by 'Hal' - sci-fi's most notorious artificially intelligent computer.
It is these huge advances effected by mankind that Craig Nunes, VP of marketing, 3PAR, points to. And the fact that such transformation will only continue apace. "In Clarke's world, the year 2010 finds humans not only dealing with the aftermath of artificial intelligence gone awry, but still struggling to understand the nature of human ingenuity and intelligence," he points out. "As 2010 opens in our world, it's no surprise that intelligence and ingenuity are key themes that run through four major trends we'll see in the enterprise data centre for 2010 and the decade beyond." The first of these he homes in on is data centre virtualisation. "Physical servers and fat storage that suck power and drink cooling resources are deftly humming themselves into obsolescence. Not only is data centre equipment evolving to become more energy-efficient (thanks, in part, to the 'greening' of the data centre), but the advent of the virtual machine and thin provisioning have forever changed IT and will continue to do so."
Nunes says that, in the coming year, we'll see the tentacles of virtualisation continue to pervade nearly every aspect of the data centre, as technological development focuses on delivering the necessary intelligence and flexibility to enhance virtual data centre efficiency and agility. This means autonomic storage that eliminates human (manual) dependency when it comes to configuration, monitoring, and optimisation; the convergence of SAN topologies, such as Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) or traditional Fibre Channel and iSCSI; and the integration of primary storage capacity reduction technologies into the virtual data centre.
Trend 2 is Cloud Computing. So far there has been much hype around cloud computing and, as the market continues to turn, we will see the cloud continue to draw much attention and momentum, he believes. But 2010 is also the year that we are going to see the real players emerge from among a sea of vendors with 'me too' marketing campaigns. There is indeed a new crop of cloud innovators that are getting it right - with cloud-intelligent, hyper-flexible, megacustomisable gear designed with this new model in mind.
"Case in point: agile, intelligent storage arrays armed with active-mesh, quad-node architectures and autonomic management features that give storage the power to think for itself. Terremark's vCloud Express and Datapipe's Stratosphere - both of which enable users to purchase cloud services over the Web with a credit card for just pennies per hour with no minimum commitment - gives us a brief glimpse into one of the many new worlds that such innovations will unlock; and not just for the enterprise." Nunes also believes there will be a showdown between best-of-breed versus vertical-stack infrastructure. "With all the merger and acquisition activity in 2009, now more than ever it is indeed possible to fulfil all IT infrastructure needs using a single mega-vendor - servers, storage, networking, and even middleware. Never has the IT landscape looked more like something straight out of the 1970s."
NEW PROFIT POOL
While this move appears to be a boon for those organisations that lack basic integration capabilities within their IT departments (eg, SMB/SME segments), it appears to be in direct conflict with the business model of cloud computing. The cloud computing paradigm creates a new profit pool. "For cloud service providers to compete among themselves with essentially the same vertical stack infrastructure would reduce their ability to differentiate and could result in acquiescing pricing leverage to their infrastructure providers," he states. Instead, these service providers are more likely to choose best of breed servers, storage, networks, and middleware - and then leverage in-house integration expertise to deliver highly differentiated cloud services. "In this way, pricing leverage and control of the profit pool stays with them, versus their supply chain."
Finally, he singles out next-gen backup and recovery. "No 2010 prediction piece would be complete without a 'tape is dead' mantra. Economic pressure - combined with faster, more efficient disk-based backup and data archiving - will force tape increasingly into the great archive of antiquated IT technologies. Speed is the key - not just in terms of backup, but also recovery - which is why we'll see more solutions that look like tape, but don't act like tape, at least not in terms of their velocity. Combine this with other innovations, such as smart deduplication, and things become even more interesting."
For example, the possibilities for smart corporate-wide blending of deduplication and storage capabilities - through serverbased appliances that intelligently dedupe data before backing it up - will revolutionise backup and recovery, but may still be a few years down the road.
Meanwhile, the above trends and paradigm shifts will be in full swing as we look back at the close of 2010, Nunes argues. "Data centre virtualisation, cloud computing in its various forms, best-of-breed infrastructures, and next generation backup and recovery technologies are all poised to deliver greater innovation and value to users who have been constrained by tough economic times. We have seen no slowdown in the creation of data, despite a challenging global macro-economic climate. Businesses are starved for IT innovation that will provide them with new and creative ways to maintain competitiveness and profitability. These major trends, and others, will enable business to leverage technology to their best advantage."
Cloud Trends for 2010 is a key area that engages the attentions of Jeremy Wallis, UK systems engineering director at NetApp. And manageability of the cloud is becoming a critical success factor, he says. "As different vendors clamour to be part of the cloud, unified management of the entire technology stack is critical. Whether public or private, tying together the different infrastructure layers, including applications, VMs, systems, networks and storage, with a comprehensive set of management tools reduces complexity by providing end-to-end service visibility, performance monitoring and automated provisioning." Wallis is convinced that natural selection will begin in the cloud service provider space. "Although it is still early in the evolutionary process, Darwinian selection is already starting to happen in the cloud service provider space. Super efficient aggregators are emerging that have figured out how to get the most out of a virtualised infrastructure. Some early adopters of the cloud business model will decide to abandon offering services from their own data centres and partner with these successful service providers, who have demonstrated that they can offer enterprise class IT as a service cheaper and with better service levels than they can do it themselves."
Secure multi-tenancy will become imperative, too. Data centres today that are deploying a cloud architecture are making a profound shift from application centric silos to virtualised shared infrastructures. This shared environment results in multiple 'tenants' or users occupying the same virtualised infrastructure. As a result, the tenants need to be assured that safe sharing occurs both from a security perspective and a performance perspective. A secure multitenancy solution enables this, he says.
He also argues for companies to get a better grasp of how to standardise, consolidate and virtualise their IT environments. "Most IT departments, over time, have accumulated a diverse set of hardware and software platforms. This model may be fine in a siloed structure where each business application has its own server and storage resource. However, in a cloud environment, this model will pose serious challenges. As a result, companies that want to realise a true service-oriented architecture will need to start by planning to standardise and consolidate first, in order to build a shared virtualised infrastructure."
Security and privacy issues will also come more into focus. Data security is a challenge today, even in closed IT infrastructure environments. For many financial, military defence and public security companies, this issue will be even more profound in a shared and open cloud environment. Cloud service providers will need to develop a proven practice to gain the confidence of those wary customers who value data security as the number one criteria in choosing a service provider, Wallis adds. One key factor he underlines is the importance of defining SLAs - service level agreements - to measure IT performance effectively. "The cloud will fundamentally change how IT services are offered, both internally and externally. For emerging cloud service providers, offering the right-sized SLA will be critical to winning business and market share with potential customers. For internal cloud deployments, IT departments will need to create the right SLA and the appropriate visibility associated with the SLA, so that the business units and IT can determine the most efficient use of resources."
More internal enterprise IT departments will be measured against the service levels, costs and provisioning speeds that are offered, in comparison with public cloud providers. Many IT organisations are recreating themselves as internal "services providers" in the effort to standardise offerings and reduce costs, yet still meet the requirements of the business. By implementing 'service catalogues', meaning a finite set of configurations with associated service levels, costs and delivery times, IT organisations are able to reduce their procurement and management costs. "The limited set of resources available in a catalogue enables standardisation which, in turn, creates a more predictable cost model and increases time to market."
When it comes to cloud architectures, these will be driven by standardisation (Ethernet), virtualisation (servers, storage) and efficiency (asset, operations, environmental). "Standardisation is critical to any service offering, because it gives both the provider and the consumer a set of repeatable, measurable resources. Without standardisation, every offering would be custom, which would not only increase upfront deployment costs and ongoing management costs, but also make it difficult to measure the effectiveness of each offering, as there would be no baseline." Additionally, by standardising on lower cost network technologies such as Ethernet and a virtualised server and storage infrastructure, cloud architectures will drive efficiencies up - allowing service providers to drive their costs down and focus on value added services to differentiate and drive their own revenue. Wallis also sees companies trending toward shared, but self-hosted infrastructure behind virtualised servers (whether public or private) and co-existence of siloed application stacks. The move toward cloud architectures will not happen overnight, though. "Most companies have a number of critical legacy applications in traditional siloed architectures that they will not change for any number of reasons, including the introduction of too much risk, politics, organisational inertia, etc. Shared, virtualised infrastructures will become the de facto choice for new application rollouts, but enterprise organisations will continue to maintain a hybrid environment for years to come - witness the number of IT organisations investing in and maintaining mainframe systems even decades after their projected lifespan."
The potential for cloud computing extends beyond hypervisor-centric Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) resource-sharing, he concludes. "Successful Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud offerings today include powerful underlying PaaS engines, such as Force.com, Google Apps and Intuit QuickBase Online. These PaaS engines offer the necessary customisation of otherwise rigid SaaS workflows and reports. The advent of Microsoft's Asure, coupled with a huge and loyal developer base, will accelerate adoption of next-gen cloudcentric applications. VMware's purchase of SpringSource also confirms and reinforces this trend."
While industry experts may well be predicting a continued adoption of virtual servers as businesses continue to integrate them into their IT infrastructure, that is not the whole story. "With the hype, it's easy to forget that virtual servers are subject to the same variety of loss scenarios as their traditional physical counterparts, whether this be natural disasters, viruses or hard disk corruption, as well as an array of additional ones that arise from the nature of virtualisation technology itself," cautions David Blackman, general manager Northern Europe, Acronis. "It will be important for businesses that are shifting to virtualisation to take their backup and recovery strategy along for the ride." Adoption of data deduplication technology is rising as the amount of digital data stored continues to grow. "Enterprise companies have been quick to recognise its ability to reduce storage space requirements, improve storage systems performance and cut backup times," adds Blackman. "While this technology has traditionally been reserved for large organisations, due to its high cost, as the technology matures it is fast becoming more affordable and therefore accessible to SMBs [small and medium-sized businesses] through software-based solutions." The year 2010 will, he says, "be about maintaining optimum employee productivity. UK firms want tools that keep their business operations up and running at all times, across both physical and virtual environments. Expect to see organisations implementing backup strategies that ensure business continuity while meeting increasingly strict recovery time objectives."
Meanwhile, Global research analyst Gartner is predicting a significant storage spending revival in 2010, with budgets expected to be 2 x overall IT spend as projects deferred from credit-crunched 2009 are re-instated. On a global basis, Forrester endorses this prediction, expecting a rebound in IT spending, with the strongest growth predicted to be in western and central Europe, where technical purchases rise by 11.2%.
"Key prevailing technologies that will benefit from this spend will be virtualisation and solid state disks," states Nick Broadbent VP global support, DataCore Software. "In the past couple of years, consolidation was the driver behind the first wave of virtualisation, but in 2010, both storage and desktop virtualisation will go mainstream. "Microsoft Hyper-V has created a wave - to include the whole Microsoft world - that is embracing virtualisation, while at the same time illustrating the growing cost disparity between Hypervisors and traditional SANs and shared storage arrays. In addition, Citrix is expanding to join VMware in continual server virtualisation. And, out of necessity, sitting behind this desktop virtualisation wave is storage virtualisation - providing highly available, thin provisioned, high performing, cost-effective storage.
"No longer will it be safe to rely on a single physical proprietary array where a single motherboard crash or firmware bug could take the whole solution away from thousands of VDI users. Nor will the same solution be financially viable to serve individual, unused disks to all these users. Nor will the users used to fast instant response laptops be prepared to wait while the cache/controller finds, delivers and serves the data.
"Storage virtualisation will be a necessity and only solutions that are able to seamlessly, physically separate without dependence, [where one side failing doesn't reduce a business to stopping its business], will be acceptable solutions." Solid state disk has dramatically reduced in price and becomes a very viable alternative to a performance-hungry, second tier cache type solution, he also points out. "I can see serious consideration being given now to using SSD to speed up performance and reduce ongoing running costs. Combining SSD with storage virtualisation may well prove to be an idyllic solution to meeting high performance, high reliability, business continuity and disaster recovery, without this having to cost the fortune we have all been led to believe it would in the past."
SIZING THINGS UP
In timely fashion, Symantec has released the findings of its '2010 State of the Data Center study'. Now in its third year, the study finds that mid-sized enterprises (2,000 to 9,999 employees) are more likely to adopt cuttingedge technologies such as cloud computing, deduplication, replication, storage virtualisation and continuous data protection than small or large enterprises to reduce IT costs and manage increasing complexity. Furthermore, mid-sized enterprise data centres show more activity, with more IT managers predicting major changes to the data centre and new applications in 2010. Mid-sized enterprises also place a higher importance on staffing and training than their small or large enterprise counterparts. "Although mid-sized enterprises tend to evaluate and adopt new technologies at a faster rate than larger organisations, they still face similar data centre complexities that are compounded by adopting new initiatives," says Deepak Mohan, senior vice president, Information Management Group at Symantec. "Standardising on cross-platform solutions that can manage new technologies and automate processes will drive immediate cost reduction and make their jobs easier in the long run."
According to the study, mid-sized enterprises are more aggressive and pioneering than either small or large enterprises. They are adopting new technology initiatives such as cloud computing, replication and deduplication at 11-17% higher rates than small or large enterprises. Data centre concerns include increased complexity and too many applications. Most enterprises have 10 or more data centre initiatives rated as somewhat or absolutely important and 50% expect 'significant' changes to their data centres in 2010. Half of all enterprises say applications are growing somewhat/quickly and half are finding it difficult and costly to meet service level agreements (SLAs). One-third of all enterprises say staff productivity is hampered by too many applications. Adding to the complexity is the continued increase in data, causing 71% of organisations to consider data reduction technologies such as deduplication.
Security, backup and recovery, and continuous data protection are the most important initiatives in 2010, ahead of virtualisation. In all, 83% of enterprises rated security somewhat or absolutely important, while 79% said backup and recovery is somewhat/absolutely important and 76% continuous data protection as one of their top initiatives. Staffing and budgets remain tight, with half of all enterprises reporting they are somewhat/ extremely understaffed. Finding budget and qualified applicants are the biggest recruiting issues. Seventy-six percent of enterprises have the same or more job requisitions open this year.
There continues to be room for improvement in disaster recovery. One-third of disaster recovery plans are undocumented or need work and important IT components, such as cloud computing, remote office and virtual servers, are often not included. Compounding the issue, almost one-third of enterprises haven't re-evaluated their disaster recovery plan in the last 12 months. Virtual machine protection continues to be a focus for enterprises, with 82% of enterprises considering virtual-machine technologies in 2010. Respondents cited granular recovery within virtual machine images as the biggest challenge in virtual machine data protection.
According to Symantec, software that supports heterogeneous environments and eliminates islands of information is particularly important for mid-sized enterprises that are aggressively adopting new technologies, because they can reduce complexity in the data centre. It also argues that organisations should deploy deduplication closer to the information source to eliminate redundant data and reduce storage and network costs. The report also advises data centre administrators to manage storage across heterogeneous server and storage environments in a way that enables them to stop buying storage by leveraging new technology adoption such as storage resource management, thin provisioning, deduplication, storage virtualisation and continuous data protection and recovery. "Organisations leveraging a holistic approach to storage management can control storage budget growth and often postpone storage purchases."
Disaster recovery testing is seen as invaluable, but can significantly impact business. "Enterprises should seek to improve the success of testing by evaluating and implementing testing methods that are nondisruptive," the report (based on surveys of 1,780 data centre managers in 26 countries in November 2009) states. Finally, Symantec believes that organisations should deploy a single, unified platform for physical and virtual machine protection to simplify information management".
Clearly, 2010 has much in store for the industry as it enters this new chapter with a mixture of expectation and caution. Economically, these are still very tough times. But the industry has weathered what is - hopefully! - the worst and has proved its resilience time and again. We can expect it to emerge at the end of the year as a sector that continues to deliver the solutions that enable end users to manage their storage challenges with ever greater efficiency and productivity. At the same time, it will be supporting their efforts to drive greater profit to the bottom line, even as the call to 'green' their operations in the face of environmental concerns only grows in intensity and demands to be recognised.
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