Under Analysis: Back in the fold

Storage has become the new heart of the data system. In many cases storage represents 50 per cent, and sometimes 70 per cent, of the value of the system. It is also likely to be upgraded more often.

As the computing environment becomes more complex with new data types, and with many organisations also rapidly increasing the number of appli-cations which require vast amounts of storage, the need for an organisation-wide approach to storage and storage management has become apparent.

MIS executives have a growing problem. They need to respond to the mountain of data which is being stored every day. This mountain of data needs to be managed, else "data clog" becomes an impossible hurdle.

The effects of data clog are that backups become neglected, crises occur within the organisation due to "band-aids", uncoordinated efforts and point solutions. At its most simple the problem has become "I can't find it, I can't monitor it and I can't manage it".

IDC has established that primary disk storage systems shipped in Australia in 1998 totalled 619 terabytes. This is forecast to increase more than elevenfold by 2003 to 6925 terabytes, a compound annual growth rate exceeding 62 per cent.

However, it is not just the sheer magnitude of the amount of storage which is startling but the challenge to manage it within a shrinking window. Indeed, for some organisations which operate in 24-hour, 7-day mode, management of the data is already the major operating challenge. Most organisations will encounter the problem as e-business becomes part of our daily lives.

The answer, however, is becoming available from the storage systems suppliers as they unveil their solution to the problem, the storage area network (SAN), and the associated intelligent storage devices. This new-generation solution, built on high-performance storage hardware, fibre channel interconnects and smarter software will arrive on the market in the nick of time. Although the solution will be more expensive than existing backup efforts, the primary benefits to users will be in terms of their ability to manage the organisation's storage in a systematic and cost effective way.

The key saving will be in a seven-fold increase in the amount of storage which can be managed by each person, from 100MB today in a host-attached storage environment to 750MB in a consolidated enterprise storage environment.

Graham Penn is general manager of research for IDC Australia

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