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a sound enterprise storage infrastructure
Khan is Business Manager, Enterprise Storage, Compaq
India. With over 17 years of experience in the IT industry,
he is responsible for managing and marketing Compaq's
entire Enterprise Storage product line. Owais is a published
poet, and works with NGOs and other informal groups
in his spare time.
increased dependence on storage, it becomes imperative for
businesses to have a sound storage infrastructure. Virtual
Storage and Disaster Management are two trends that assure
high data availability
enterprises of all sizes are now realizing the significance
of sound data storage infrastructure and data availability
to their businesses. While enterprises were previously content
with merely attaching additional disks or tape libraries to
a server and backing up data, burgeoning data storage needs
and events around the world have forcefully driven home the
fact that data storage extends much beyond a backup arrangement.
Storage vendors have been on their toes trying to give enterprises
the best in storage technology. Storage trends, present and
future, are therefore strongly driven by vendor innovation,
customer awareness and most importantly, the unexpected situations
encountered in day-to-day operations.
Two of the more outstanding trends are Virtual Storage and
Disaster Management. While Storage Virtualization is a futuristic
storage technology trend, Disaster Management is an immediate
and necessary business trend. The rise in demand for Disaster
Management solutions by enterprises can be attributed to the
September 11 attacks on the WTC. Storage Virtualization is
the next step in the evolutionary process of Network Storage
solutions that storage vendors have been providing.
Virtual Storage refers to a scenario where storage is abstract
and the concept of actual physical representation of a storage
unit to the operating system and applications on a server
does not exist. It is a fascinating technology that aims to
make storage a utility like water and electricity. For a layperson,
all that matters is the availability of water and electricity
at the turn of a tap or flick of a switch, without having
to think about the source and the path. Storage virtualization
will make storage as utilitarian as this by ensuring that
the operating system and the application on the server transparently
handle storage in its dynamic form. Virtual storage will enable
the storage solution to shrink and expand dynamically as required.
A closer look at the challenges posed to disk storage currently
will help one appreciate the role of virtual storage. Enterprises
today are faced with the challenge of unprecedented information
overload, all of which is critical for their businesses. In
today's extremely competitive business environment, it is
imperative that maintenance and availability of mission critical
data originating from multiple sources and systems in varied
formats, across multiple users, at any given time is crucial.
Some of the problems associated with handling such huge volumes
of data include physical space constraints, the cost of purchasing
more storage infrastructure, and the availability of trained
technical personnel to maintain and ensure smooth operation
of the infrastructure. While accommodating growing data storage
needs is important, this has to be done without disrupting
routine operations. Thus, in addition to the constraints mentioned
earlier, this brings to light the issue of accommodating the
latest technologies and evolution that might necessitate the
replacement of entire infrastructures. This will obviously
disrupt operations, requiring more investment in infrastructure
and training of personnel to handle the upgraded implementation.
Storage Virtualization, if successfully implemented,
offers a wide range of benefits and capabilities that will
address the issues mentioned above. The ability to deal with
storage in abstraction ensures transparency of details like
configuration, device specific features and characteristics
to server applications. This in turn allows use of common
management tools across disparate storage systems and a common
set of features. Further, storage capacity can be added without
affecting existing systems and applications. Data migration
to ensure load balancing can be done without disrupting normal
Consistent management tools across varying devices will ensure
focused training on one set of tools for storage administrators.
This facilitates error free management across devices and
administration of greater amounts of storage by a single administrator.
This also means that purchasing decisions would be based on
costs, reliability, etc at the planned time of need rather
than a decision for a predetermined vendor set done at an
earlier time and driven by operational requirements. This
solves the problem of skilled manpower resources. Therefore,
storage management software will become a critical purchase
Abstraction of disk storage also aids hassle free implementation
of new technologies in the form of infrastructure or devices,
without having to face obsolescence or business resistance.
This in turn allows enterprises to reap the cost and technology
benefits of new technology evolutions.
An enterprise-wide storage virtualization will therefore be
revolutionary by changing the way storage is managed. While
Storage Area Networks (SANs) are gaining popularity, embracing
a virtualization solution with a SAN is the next logical step
in achieving gains beyond connectivity.
Unlike Storage Virtualization, Disaster Management is not
a new concept or technology in storage. Storage vendors have
had the technology, planning and implementation expertise
in providing Disaster Management solutions for a long time.
However, very few enterprises realized the need for sound
Disaster Management plans till the September 11 attacks on
the WTC. There has been a definite trend of enterprises implementing
Disaster Management solutions ever since. The trend will continue,
as enterprises now understand the urgency of a Disaster Management
In storage terms, 'disaster' means the loss of mission critical
data without which an organization will lose its ability to
do business effectively. While implementing robust disaster
management solutions is vital for business continuance, enterprises
can work with storage vendors to develop contingency plans
best suited for their business needs. Thus a combination of
Disaster Management plans can be developed depending on the
nature of business and the use to which an enterprise's mission
critical data is put to.
Classifying business needs will help us understand the logic
behind the planning that goes into disaster management. These
business objectives can be classified as Recovery Point Objective
(RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO), depending on the
nature of enterprises' businesses.
RPO is relevant in businesses where the accuracy of data
(data integrity) is more important, such as in the manufacturing
RTO is relevant in businesses where the availability of
data (high availability) at any given time is critical,
such as the hospitality and travel industries.
In several businesses RPO as well as RTO are equally critical
in order to ensure smooth, accurate transactions and customer
satisfaction. Enterprises in such businesses look for Disaster
Tolerance or Business Continuance solutions, which literally
mean solutions that can fully tolerate a disaster without
any downtime, loss or damage. A good example is the financial
Based on the above classification either Disaster Recovery
(DR) or Disaster Tolerant (DT) solutions can be implemented.
While DR constitutes taking data backup regularly with the
tapes being stored safely at a different site, DT involves
setting up a replica of the primary storage solution at a
secondary site located a certain distance away.
However, for any Disaster Management plan to work well, the
most important requirement is the discipline in establishing
a certain regimen to ensure data backup at regular intervals.
Without this no amount of spend on infrastructure can protect
an organization from a disaster.
To conclude, both storage trends discussed above are very
strong. We will witness tremendous activity on both these
fronts in terms of technological innovations from the vendors,
as well as key infrastructure investment decisions from enterprises.
With the role of storage gaining significance in recent times,
storage planning and strategies will assume greater importance
and will test vendor capabilities, providing an opportunity
for competitive vendors to prove their mettle.