Image&SAN '99: Intelligent SAN will manage data

An intelligent form of SAN (storage area network) technology will be developed soon to help IS managers cope with an explosion in the size and complexity of corporate databases, according to Jason Ditcham, area network product manager for Storage Technology (StorageTek) in Asia.

"We will see intelligent storage processors in SANs which will handle the storage management," he said here yesterday at the Image&SAN '99 conference. "Users will be able to do away with backup servers and run their backup software directly on the SAN," Ditcham said.

SAN is a set of hardware and software technologies that link disk storage units together in much the same way that LANs (local area networks) tie together PCs. Benefits to end-users include an easier route to high availability, the ability to add storage capacity in smaller increments, and a more flexible approach to network management, analysts say.

Intelligent SAN technology allows backups to take place without placing additional strain on the main network, avoids downtime, and enables IS managers to store their data hierarchically, taking advantage of cheaper storage media for archive data, Ditcham said.

"With disk space costing 50 (US) cents per megabyte and tape costing half a cent per megabyte, there is certainly an advantage in using HSM (hierarchical storage management) for data," he said.

The need for SAN, and future developments such as intelligent SAN, is being driven by the high storage requirements of video, audio and imaging applications, Ditcham said.

One hour's worth of digital TV consists of 100Gbytes of data, while one hour of compact-disc quality audio takes up 635Mbytes, according to Ditcham. Despite the large storage requirements, IS managers are seeing the need to store this data digitally so it can be managed and accessed, as well as for the cost savings, Ditcham said.

"It costs about $12 to store a megabyte of text on paper in a filing cabinet compared to one-half cent on tape," he said. "And the digitally-stored form is indexable and so can be accessed easily."

High-capacity imaging applications such as fingerprint recognition are becoming popular in Asia, and centrally managed SAN systems are needed to halt runaway complexity, according to Ditcham.

"There are a lot of very complex computing environments out there which are decentralised and heterogeneous," he said. "Storage is attached to servers, and servers are attached to the network, and many company networks are now in crisis. There is a need for companies to recentralise their data management through technologies like SAN."

Ditcham quoted figures from an IDC survey which indicated that in 1993, 5 per cent of the world's data was stored in digital form, a proportion which is expected to rise to almost 50 per cent by 2003. Worldwide digital storage requirements then will be 10,000 petabytes (10 million terabytes or 10 billion gigabytes).

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