Storage front-and-center in 2007

Farewell the storage problems of 2006 and bring on the new year

For many companies, 2006 has seen storage problems come to a head. The pressure of ever-expanding data volume, puzzlement over effective backup and retrieval of email, video and voice, and concern about provisions for business continuity pose complex challenges. Storage accounts for more than 50 percent of many IT budgets and consumes more planning time than ever.

Without doubt, 2007 will bring more pressure related to compliance and data retention, and users will demand ever-better data access and security. Looking on the bright side, this means that storage operations are valued more than ever before. And there is a great deal of new technology available, as well as lower prices per gigabyte. Finding the ideal storage solution for your organization can be a source of great professional satisfaction.

However, many Hong Kong businesses face growing data volume and complexity without additional budgetary resources. "A joint effort of business and IT is needed to create a sustainable storage strategy, based on the business value of the data," said Betty Lin, industry solution sales country manager, Sun Microsystems Hong Kong, "As an alternative to throwing expensive disk [storage] at the data growth problem, a strategy should include technologies like storage consolidation, virtualization and centralized management, which can reduce overall cost and increase efficiency. IT executives should educate their business executives on the severity of the issue."

Currently, many organizations tend to make multiple copies of their data. "On the production database you have a live copy and one or two backups, a development copy, one offsite for data protection, and another for data mining or BI," said Graham Penn, IDC's associate VP for storage, AP, "So it's easy to start with two terabytes of data and end up with 20 terabytes spread around a global network. ILF is making organizations wake up to where their data is and how they are moving it around."

"Google and Yahoo have datacenters the size of 10-12 football fields spinning iron and the volume is growing at hundreds of terabytes a day," continued Penn. "Airlines banks and government departments are all caught up in this issue. Software is becoming a key part of managing your data. ILM is part of it, helping users to manage data and reduce costs."

In 2006, it was widely realized that the one-size-fits-all approach to storage no longer works. "Storage requirements now vary by application and even by user within an application," said Lawrence Li, Symantec's system engineering manager. "File storage for instance, has different requirements for performance, recoverability and scalability than customers facing web content, internal email, or mission critical database records."

Users tackle ILM

HDS has tiered hardware and management products for open systems, mainframes and NAS. The vendor emphasizes data replication and moving data non-disruptively across the various storage tiers, using its virtualization controllers as a front end to the external storage systems.

When it comes to ILM, HDS collaborates extensively with Arkivio, StoredIQ and a number of other partners to provide a comprehensive offering. HDS's contribution is the hardware (particularly storage devices and virtualization controllers) and the storage-resource management (its HiCommand suite, which manages discovery, tuning, tiering and a number of other storage aspects) that enable policy-based automated storage movement across storage tiers. The company also provides a suite of business-continuity tools that create data copies, replicating them across local heterogeneous tiers of storage and out to remote recovery sites.

"Storage volume is growing fast, with more multimedia, video and image data," said Fred Sheu, marketing director, Technology Solutions Group, HP HK. "ILM is used increasingly, and IT managers are determining the value of data, especially in the light of compliance requirements. But only large enterprises are using ILM fully-for example, chargeback mechanisms to make users pay for their storage service are not used much."

Although ILM is not new, Hong Kong users, like others around the world, are struggling to define the best ILM policy. "They have to map their organization's data values to the available storage infrastructure, and that requires input from the internal end-users of storage," said Douglas Lo, IBM's senior IT specialist, system storage, Systems and Technology Group, "However, it also requires expertise, including help from vendors, consultants and standards such as ITIL."

"We use ILM to some extent. Certain applications need high performance disks, and some are less critical but need a near-online response, while other data are not so critical," said Norris Hickerson, VP, data centre & engineering services, COL. "The main problems for Hong Kong users, especially small companies, is that they can define data tiers, but they may not have enough data volume at every tier to make ILM effective."

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