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Enterprise storage: A strategy to consider

Data generated in your company is not getting any lesser even in the trying economic times. A networked storage strategy with specialized architectures will help store the growing volumes, apply management techniques, and provide easy access to all. by Soutiman Das Gupta

The CTO, Rahul Saxena, listened to the voice at the other end of the line and was absolutely baffled. It was just two months ago that he had procured several hard disks amounting to 600 GB of storage capacity. And today the administrator reported that storage repositories had already utilized 80 percent capacity. Where on earth did so much storage space go and where did so much data come from?

To Rahul, 600 GB disk space sounded good enough to manage the storage requirements for at least the next seven months. After all, the company only ran a few modules of an enterprise application, some firewalls, anti-virus software, and network management tools.

In reality, the storage needs turned out to be different. Along with company growth came a flood of data that needed to be archived. There were company financial figures, accounting history, customer data, purchase orders, and inventory figures pouring in from all areas of the business. Rahul's story is reality in many Indian companies. A study shows that the average 'Data 2000' company (the top 2000 companies who use high amounts of storage) will double its online capacity demands every eight and a half months.

Managing the staggering growth of digital information and the associated infrastructure in times of economic slowdown poses quite a challenge. The answers to the challenge are evolved network storage architectures like NAS (Network Attached Storage) and SAN (Storage Area Network). The challenge for IT management is to determine the value of these new technologies.

FreeMarkets Inc., a Pittsburgh-based online B2B sourcing, auction, and consulting services firm with $91 million in revenue last year, has managed to survive the slowdown. The company's storage environment today consists of 11 TB of network storage, both SAN and NAS. It serves an array of Unix and Windows/Intel servers from a variety of vendors, and several TB of DAS. Last year its storage amounted to 5 TB. By this time next year the company expects storage capacity to reach 20 TB.

An industry watcher, Enterprise Storage Group, based in Massachusetts, suggests that the cost of moving from a non-networked storage infrastructure to a network storage infrastructure will have a dramatic ROI (Return On Investment). In a recent study of IT executives, Enterprise Storage Group found that those who have implemented a SAN feel that the average amount of storage their personnel could manage is 3.7 times greater than what they could manage with a distributed DAS (Direct Attached Storage) environment.

A storage network-based environment also opens the door to deploying better storage management tools. John T. McArthur, VP, Storage Research Program at IDC Worldwide says, "If you are going to make an investment in anything this year, make an investment in storage resource management."

IDC estimates that storage capacity will increase at nearly 75 percent a year in the 2001-2003 time frame (IDC Worldwide Disk Storage Systems Forecast and Analysis, 1999-2004). This growth highlights a couple of very important issues. First, the increasing importance of data and second, the difficulties of managing burgeoning storage resources. "The growth in storage capacity and the current IT skill shortage demands a new model for information management and information delivery. Networked storage is the framework to deliver on this new model, and the solutions are real. Success will come to those companies that can organize to take advantage of these solutions," says IDC's McArthur.

It certainly is time for IT managers to wake up to storage needs. IDC forecasts that by 2004, 67 percent of all storage will be networked. Now it's your turn to take a call.