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Issue of December 2002 
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Storage Management
More Gigabytes for the buck

With companies putting a squeeze on IT budgets, there's lot of pressure on IT managers to control storage infrastructure costs. It's the IT manager's responsibility to get more mileage for every buck spent on the storage infrastructure. And it's the smarter IT manager who manages to do it at the end of the day. by Soutiman Das Gupta

Most companies are squeezing IT budgets yet forcing IT managers to look for more GBs. Companies can claim that they have not spared any expense to set up storage infrastructure, but may suddenly find themselves with a reasonably large storage setup and relatively less benefits. What would you do if you face a similar situation in your organization?

To get maximum benefit from your storage setup, you must take a good look at the current storage management practices in your organization.

Anal Jain, MD, India and SAARC, Network Appliance, says that an ideal storage management solution should allow:

  • Simple and fast backup and recovery
  • Data Protection
  • High-availability and uptime
  • Interoperability across applications, servers, and networks
  • Scalability to expand without rendering the existing storage setup obsolete
  • Simple management and should not require retraining as storage needs grow

Indian enterprises
Most Indian companies are very careful about the way they manage storage. And storage service provider companies have lots to say about the way Indian companies manage their storage infrastructures and the challenges faced by them. Most storage solution providers agree that IT heads of Indian companies are very serious about their storage infrastructure and understand well that the storage and security of data is of high importance.
Nikhil Madan, Country Manager, Legato Systems, India, says, "Currently, Indian organizations are on the learning curve. Everyday more and more organizations realize the importance of having storage software solutions for their networks."

P.P. Subramanian, Country Manager-India, Hitachi Data Systems, says, "It's important that enterprises evaluate the various solution provider offerings and superimpose the findings over the requirement."

Anil Valluri, Director, Systems Engineering, Sun Microsystems adds, "Indian enterprises should ask the vendors for standards-based management software. And they should discourage proprietary software."

T. Srinivasan, Country Manager, EMC says, "Most Indian enterprises are still not in the realm of having storage as a separate line item in their IT budget, because it gets clubbed under servers. This mindset will only change if users begin to understand the benefits of storage consolidation and how storage is at the core of the entire IT enterprise."

Cutting costs
Analysts at Meta Group say, to successfully control storage cost, Information Technology Organiza-tions must undertake a dual strategy of restraining the businesses storage appetite by making it accountable for what it consumes, and driving down the unit cost of managed storage. As the storage budget becomes increasingly dominated by the management cost, ITOs must focus on reducing this component rather than just relying on the annual 35 to 40 percent price/performance improvement of the hardware.

Failure to analyze the policies and procedures that drive storage costs can result in a large expenditure in software to automate a task that has little impact on the management cost. This results in an overall increase in storage management costs. Storage administrators who don't adequately benchmark storage costs and do not understand their cost drivers will fail to control costs.

The bottom line is that careful selection of storage management tools will dramatically increase storage administrator efficiency and contain storage growth costs. However, IT organizations must focus on policies and procedures and use them to drive tool selection, instead of vice versa.

A Manager's perspective
V.K. Ramani, President, IT, UTI Bank talks about the importance of a data policy and capacity planning. "An important aspect of a storage strategy is the data policy. Not all issues that have an impact on an organization's data strategy can be solved with technology alone. Individuals must follow sound practices with institutional dates. The users should place their data within supported data structures. Users who store data in local drives should not be encouraged if the policy dictates storage in network servers. Users are unlikely to perform frequent backups of their data or follow other procedures that ensure that institutional data are secure. The users must be trained to trust the network storage facilities."

Ramani says capacity planning of storage systems needs to take into account a few general guidelines.

"One should measure the amount and significance of current data, look at the business plans of the organization and try to estimate the growth in data with a few reasonable assumptions, and forecast the longevity of the systems. A three years life span is reasonable," says Ramani.

Rolta India Limited has a mix of distributed and centralized storage, which it has consolidated in its data center. It uses CA's ARCserve, for policy-based backup and recovery.

Subrata Mullick, Senior VP, Security and Enterprise Management Services, Rolta India Limited, says, "Storing important company data safely is of utmost importance. And to perform this task efficiently we perform risk analysis and assessment of the data. The entire process of risk assessment involves quantitative and qualitative analysis like annual loss expectancy, business impact analysis, and cost of recovery strategy. Our data storage strategy provides optimum use of resources and best return on investment."

Mullick says Rolta has implemented a storage policy across the organization. Consolidation of data takes place in the divisional level in line with a disaster recovery strategy.

Storage trend

Through 2006, storage management automation and process immaturity will limit net annual enterprise storage capacity growth to 55 to 65 percent (67 to 84 percent gross procurement). Price/capacity will improve by 35 percent every year.

To effectively leverage and manage enterprise media assets, users will require a data/media center of excellence. Through 2004/05, software value-added functions, manageability, integration, and interoperability will be the primary enterprise storage differentiators.

NSEs storage infrastructure

The National Stock Exchange uses the following hardware and software building blocks for its enterprise storage infrastructure.

  • Stratus fault-tolerant servers with redundant internal storage for its daily trading function.
  • Digital Alpha Servers for back office, data warehousing, and other operations in conjunction with Compaq ESA 10000 and Digital SW500 storage subsystems.

The Storage infrastructure design was prepared in 1994 when the exchange was commissioned. "At that time the concept of a SAN did not exist and all our data was stored in DAS. We later adapted to the changes in technology and moved certain critical applications to external SCSI-based storage with added redundant features. The exchange is now evaluating the process of consolidating existing servers and storage to achieve the benefits of a SAN," said G.M. Shenoy, VP, NSE-IT.

The company considered the following factors important for setting up its storage infrastructure:

  • High availability with no single point of failure
  • High bandwidth and greater performance
  • Modular scalability
  • Maximum hardware utilization
  • Manageability
  • Ease of integration into existing infrastructure
  • Better access to information by sharing data across the enterprise
  • Freedom from vendor dependence through the use of heterogeneous hardware and software

Security in storage management
Shenoy says NSE has dedicated teams of administrators and hardware engineers who look after the operational aspects of management. "In order to curtail the connectivity to various servers and storage we have implemented user authentication for each machine. Apart from this, access is blocked to the external world and users within internal segments are tightly coupled to various machines by using techniques like hard coding of IP address, access authentication list, and access filters for the respective machines. Logical grouping of this type eliminates threat to the data."

Shenoy says NSE used a single OEM for the storage subsystem and therefore did not encounter any interoperability issues. The company's Oracle archive logs are transferred online to a disaster recovery site and the servers at this site keep the database in synchrony.

NSE faced a number of challenges in order to perform efficient storage management. They are as follows:

  • Speeding up data access and accelerating backup cycles
  • Optimizing/consolidating data currently in the DAS environment
  • Reducing network congestion due to backup
  • Scalability issues with the DAS setup
  • Monitoring, controlling, and diagnosing data centrally and remotely

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at

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