THE CASE FOR SMARTER STORAGE
From STORAGE Magazine Vol 12, Issue 01 - February 2012
IS IT SENSIBLE TO BE AN EXTREME SPORTS ENTHUSIAST AND THEN GO WITHOUT INSURANCE? SO WHY WOULD YOU FAIL TO BACK UP THE VITAL INFORMATION OF YOUR BUSINESS? BRIAN WALL STRUGGLES TO FIND THE ANSWER!
Data continues to grow at a remarkable rate and clearly has no intentions of stopping. But this alone does not make an organisation more competitive. It is the way in which the data is used and manipulated that enables businesses to create unique competitive advantage. And to do this successfully requires the correct systems and storage for the business.
This data growth means organisations are having to buy more infrastructure that takes up more data centre space and incurs more cost. The other consequential impact is on management of the environment. "Multiple systems with differing management interfaces increase the complexity of the environment, which today could be being managed by yesterday's server administrators," points out Ian Shave, IBM UKI Storage brand leader. "The skills required for managing such an environment can be hard to find in the industry, even assuming there is operational budget to allow for additional staff."
"The actual data size, compared to what was allocated to a requirement, is also, in the majority of cases, significantly smaller," he continues. "Capacity projections for projects are frequently over specified, often requesting the projected capacity requirement for a three or more year period, as well as factoring in contingency in the event the project was undersized. With average utilisation of storage at 30%, organisations are getting a poor return on investment from a depreciating asset, as well as wasting energy consumption and associated operating costs.
"To help visualise the inefficiencies of this low utilisation, this is like having a 10-storey building, with only three floors occupied and then, when employing 20 more people, buying a new building to put them in. This is, in effect what many organisations are doing today: believing they need, and subsequently buying, more storage."
STORE MORE WITH WHAT'S ON THE
"Thin provisioning allows you to allocate more storage capacity than you have available - the concept of over-provisioning - so reducing that wastage associated with a project that has been over-specified. The efficiency gains from these technologies can be significant. By combining these technologies, it's possible that 'allocated' capacity is actually higher than the usable capacity."
DATA IN THE RIGHT PLACE
"Automated tiering dynamically redistributes active data across multiple tiers of storage class, based on workload characteristics, enabling efficient use of flash storage to reduce response times, improve application performance and service," states Shave. "This identifies data that is inactive, or with a very low access frequency, to be stored on more cost-effective storage classes, lowering overall costs."
REDUCE DATA STORED
"Storage virtualisation and automation technologies simplify the management of the environment and increase the efficiency, leading to higher data protection. Through the combination of all these technologies, organisations can reduce both costs and energy requirements, helping to reduce operational costs. Very importantly, these technologies and efficiencies can be applied to an organisation's existing infrastructure and help gain significant additional value from existing assets."
DATA PROTECTION AND RETENTION
"The impact of this is that organisations often find themselves spending money in ways they'd rather not, spending nearly as much to protect and retain data as they do to support revenuegenerating applications. Typically, data is accessed most frequently early in its life after being generated. This can then tail off to a very low to zero access frequency. However, should that information be updated in any way or should data analytics be run on historical data, its access frequency is likely to again increase significantly, albeit potentially for a shorter time period. This activity will again tail off over time, eventually to zero. This process could happen multiple times before finally the data access stays at zero for an extended period of time.
If a data type is considered business critical, with a very high availability and performance requirement, while the data is being frequently accessed, it's possible we would want it on the highest performing disk system, but also replicated synchronously to another data centre."
LOWER, CHEAPER TIER
Another common issue contributing to the inescapable data growth is multiple copies of the data; not only due to multiple copies across multiple applications or users, but also from storing on primary storage to snapshots, replicated to backup and archive, DR test etc. To dramatically reduce this impact, which is becoming compounded as data grows and data protection requirements increase, technologies such as data deduplication can help significantly reduce the number of copies actually being stored.
"You don't get much more energy efficient than putting data on a tape cartridge. Once it's on the cartridge, it isn't consuming any energy at all. This has led to a resurgence in the tape market, as more companies realise their commitments to reducing energy consumption, along with the need to streamline costs."
In order to move to a 'Smarter Storage' system, an important first step is to reassess the existing infrastructure, he adds. "Priorities for data types, files types or applications could have changed since this was last assessed, but it's also possible they were measured to fit to pre-existing infrastructure inflexibilities, rather than truly evaluated on the requirements to meet the business objectives. The final step is to develop a transformation plan to transition the organisation from where they are today to how they would like things to look tomorrow."
Whether organisations have a focused path for their storage needs, or are not sure where to start, or indeed any situation in between, IBM believes it has the systems and capabilities to help organisations unlock their unique competitive advantage using smarter storage infrastructure. Certainly, the data explosion that touches everyone is only going to accelerate. Failing to tackle it head on now will, quite lterally, only store up greater problems.
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