Enterprise storage buyer's guide: Shopping checklist

A concise guide to enterprise storage

Demand is increasing for simple to manage, easy to grow and cost effective storage, especially in environments where there are few dedicated storage administrators. The key for any organisation searching for an optimum storage solution is to understand which of its goals are most important. The final decision will take many factors into account including functionality, price, total cost of ownership (TCO), in-house skill levels and predicted growth across the organisation. Here is a shopping checklist.

Enterprise storage buyer's guide:

Performance, reliability, scalability and recovery — A good enterprise solution will incorporate all of these features. It should be scalable, reliable and include backup and disaster recovery options. When it comes to backup, organisations should have a recovery plan in place which should be considered in the purchasing process. The solution should also be secure and meet regulatory compliance needs. Gartner advises finding a solution with good recovery time objectives (RTO) or to build a recovery solution, incorporating deduplication, the concept of tiered recovery and unified recovery management.

Virtualization — The massive growth in virtualization is generating plenty of discussion about the best ways to deploy and manage corresponding storage, including backup methodologies. Because server virtualization mobility tools require shared storage to work, many enterprises are currently deploying SANs and NAS. SAN must be considered an important, if not indispensable, part of any server virtualization project. The good news is that vendors are offering fully featured entry-level products that make advanced storage services such as thin provisioning available at an affordable price for almost any server virtualization project. There are also solutions to help customers make a smooth transition to a SAN-equipped virtual server environment. When shopping, remember to factor in virtualization.

Simplified configuration and management — Enterprise solutions today are much simpler to manage. There are even packaged SAN offerings for smaller IT environments. Organisations tend to overprovision storage, which can be costly. Look for easy management and simple provisioning tools with your enterprise storage solution. A simple management storage interface can be the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful SAN implementation. This makes ease of use, integration with other management tools and security of the array management console important buying criteria.

Keeping it Green — Incorporate the latest innovations in Green storage including the 'massive array of idle disks' (MAID) concept, thin provisioning and tiered storage. MAID storage systems may incorporate intelligent power management techniques that enable users to make trade-offs between power savings and response times. Compression, single-instance store (SIS) and deduplication have the potential to cut down the amount of data that is being stored — either primary data or in the backup process.

Purchasing strategies and pricing — Today there is a confusing array of buying options, from perpetual software to subscription licensing. The outsourcing of recovery, especially to the Cloud, is becoming a more viable option, adding further complexity to the acquisition process.

New pricing models, such as capacity-based for storage software, offer greater choices but also the opportunity for confusion. Gartner says use end-to-end service level agreements (SLAs) by building storage operating level agreements (OLAs) in the context of meeting end-to-end application requirements, versus optimising the storage domain in a silo.

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