Archives ||  About Us ||  Advertise ||  Feedback ||  Subscribe-
-
Issue of June 2003 
-
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
  -  
 
 Home > IS2003
 Print Friendly Page ||  Email this story

Storage
There’s more to storage than backups

The key focus area for most enterprises is backups. But companies should realize that other areas like storage management and data recovery are equally important

If there's one IT resource that needs to be upgraded periodically, it's Storage. Businesses, especially those that generate a high number of electronic transactions, are experiencing a data explosion. The average percentage increase in storage in the last one year is 36 percent; 16 percent of the respondents said their storage requirement increased by 26 to 50 percent in the last one year. As someone once said, "Storage is like candy, you can never get enough."

The reasons for this data explosion are many: the growth of the Internet, workplace automation, use of enterprise applications, and the need to archive historical data.

The vertical requiring storage the most is BFSI (73 percent). Regulations have made it mandatory for BFSI companies to store historical data. As per RBI guidelines, banks are expected to securely store the last seven years of transactional data.

Companies that have implemented applications like ERP or SCM also generate voluminous data.

Those who have traditionally invested in storage will continue to do so this year. But more companies from Govt./PSU and FMCG/ Consumer durables sectors plan to invest in storage this year. The recognition of digital signatures (in the Indian legal framework) followed by e-governance initiatives will result in wider usage of electronic documents in government institutions. The FMCG companies are getting more customer-focused and are using applications like CRM, which generate much data.

Click on each diagram below for larger view

Insuring storage

For this survey we considered various storage areas like DAS, NAS, SAN, backup devices, disaster recovery tools, storage virtualization, and storage management application.

What stands out in the matrix is the importance given to backup devices, especially among small companies. Overall, 77 percent said they use some kind of backup solution and 36 percent plan to invest in backup this year. A high number of companies in BFSI (83 percent) and Healthcare (90 percent) are using backup devices. Since banks have to store last seven years of transactional data, there is no better way to store it other than tapes—these are quite affordable and reliable.

For complete 'storage insurance' one needs to think beyond just tapes. One should also go in for disaster recovery tools which can minimize downtime and ensure business continuity.

Only 31 percent use disaster recovery tools and 29 percent plan to do so this year. These are mainly BFSI companies, some of whom have replicated their entire network infrastructure at remote disaster recovery sites (mostly in Chennai).

Another thing that stands out in the matrix, is the low priority given by many to Storage management applications. Just 16 percent currently use such applications and 15 percent plan to invest in this area this year.

Storage management is a very important aspect that companies are ignoring. As you add additional capacity, there is an increase in the operational/maintenance cost. Mana-ging the huge volumes of data also becomes more complex. That's why storage management applications need to be an integral part of any company with sizable storage investments. A storage strategy and storage management tools can improve storage resource utilization, availability and performance.

Another area that has few takers is Storage Virtualization. Just five percent have gone in for storage virtualization and the same number plan to go in for it this year. This is a concept in which all storage resources, regardless of location, are aggregated as one large pool of storage. One of the advantages of storage virtualization is that it provides end-users with easy access to varied storage resources.

But storage virtualization is still a nascent concept here largely because the concept and the benefits it presents have not been clearly understood. Different vendors have different definitions for it, and there's also a lack of standards.

DAS, NAS or SAN?

It's not that businesses have a choice between these three storage solutions. While 29 percent have NAS (a storage device on the network), 18 percent use a SAN (a separate network for storage). Companies clearly need to make a shift from DAS to its
higher cousins.

SAN is useful for companies having high transactional volumes. It becomes more relevant when the data needs to be accessed quickly and at any point of time. Typically, banks and the customer-service oriented companies would go in for a SAN.

Just 18 percent currently have a SAN and 20 percent plan to invest in SAN this year.

Fast-growing, small businesses should move away from DAS and adopt NAS solutions. While DAS is not scalable enough, NAS offers a capacity going up to several terabytes. Another benefit is the cost savings. NAS can be plugged into the existing Ethernet network (like a network printer) and this storage can be accessed by anyone on the network. That makes it an ideal solution for small and medium companies.

DAS has been the traditional method of storage. It works best on the LAN and it's ideal for small workgroups. But DAS storage is gradually disappearing as more companies consolidate their storage or move towards network storage solutions (like NAS and SAN).

However, DAS isn't dead yet, and 45 percent of the respondents currently use DAS solutions. Many of these are large sized companies. 20 percent plan to invest in DAS this year, mainly as incremental storage for servers.

Policy-based storage

A storage management policy is a set of guidelines that defines the corporate rules and responsibilities for storage services and usage. Your storage architecture is incomplete without a storage management policy, which includes support from your user commu-nity and senior management.

57 percent of CIOs claim to have a storage management policy in place.

It's important to have a storage management policy because it will invariably lead to better data security, regular backup measures, established disaster recovery practices, and consequently, lesser storage-related ailments. It also keeps a check on resource utilization and helps you cope with the data explosion.

Research Snapshots
  • The average percentage increase in storage capacity in the last one year in an organization has been 36 percent.
  • Data backup is regarded as the most important area within storage, and currently 77 percent have a data backup solution. This year 36 percent plan to invest in this area.
  • Storage virtualization is still a nascent concept; only five percent plan to invest in it this year.
  • Storage is most significant to the BFSI, Services, and Auto & Auto Components verticals.
  • More companies from the BFSI, FMCG/Consumer durables, Telecom/IT/ITES, Govt./PSU verticals plan to invest in storage this year.
NM Suggests
  • Don't just concentrate on backups. It's equally important to test those backups.
  • For complete 'storage insurance' one should also go in for disaster recovery tools. Such tools can minimize downtime and ensure business continuity.
  • You must have a Storage policy in place that addresses storage management, data security, backup, disaster recovery practices, and integrity of data.
  • Fast growing, small organizations should consider moving away from DAS and adopting NAS solutions.
  • SAN is useful for companies having high transactional volumes. It becomes more relevant when the data needs to be accessed quickly, and at any point of time.
TI relies on NAS filers

The R&D center of Texas Instruments (TI) in Bangalore is using NAS appliances from NetApp to address its burgeoning data requirements. TI is in the business of designing and researching chips that go into high-tech devices like cell phones and PDAs.

Centralized access
Given the nature of its business, TI's data requirements were growing exponentially every year. Accumulated data has grown from 3 TB in 2000 to 17 TB by end-2002.

Says N. V. Kameswar, General Manager-IT, Texas Instruments, "People who used to ask for gigabytes are now asking for terabytes."

To address this requirement, the company opted for NAS filers from NetApp for two reasons:

1. The bulk of TI's data is project design files that need to be stored centrally, so it can be accessed from anywhere within the organization.

2. Their global strategy team recommended NetApp filers as part of their IT infrastructure standardization strategy.

"The aim was to have a common operation environment and avoid reinventing the wheel," says Kameswar.

The company has purchased 47 TB of raw capacity across 10 filers in five clusters. Of this 35 TB is usable space and the remaining is used for creating a RAID 4 system.

Using NetApp filers, the company can offer centralized storage with redundancy and automated backups. It can also scale its storage pool with ease.

Focused on DR
TI is now focused on scalability and Disaster Recovery. Says Kameswar, "We are currently adding 1 TB of storage every month." He further adds, "Though TI does have off-site storage of backup tapes, a DR solution is high-priority activity for us this year."

Citibank migrates to SAN

Citibank India needed a storage solution that would cost-effectively manage its growing storage requirements and improve data availability. The traditional Direct Attached Storage (DAS) environment at the bank was not flexible enough to keep pace with the company's anticipated business growth.

"In the next year we plan to open at least 100 more bank branches and expect an almost 200 to 300 percent increase in transaction volume," says Somnath Sarkar, Vice President-Technology Operations, Citibank India (Consumer Bank). "We are growing very fast, so network scalability is critical."

In the DAS environment, each host server was directly attached to a storage device and data on that device could only be accessed via the LAN through the operating system of the attached server.

SAN moves in
To address these issues, the bank decided to migrate from a DAS environment to a high-performance, scalable SAN.
Citibank India's SAN setup comprises an EMC Symmetrix 8530 disk array and a StorageTek L7000 tape library. The core of the SAN consists of the SAN fabric—a redundant dual-fabric configuration of Brocade SilkWork Fiber Channel switches that connected the servers to the storage devices.

Faster processing
After the implementation, Citibank has experienced a 10-20 percent increase in processing online customer transactions and an amazing 30 percent increase in handling backend processing jobs.

End-to-end network fault tolerance has increased system availability.

Hardware consolidation and centralized SAN management have led to improved resource utilization.

"We have seen excellent stability, even though it's a very new environment. The SAN has been a very cost-effective way to help our business continue to scale up. We have seen almost a 100 percent improvement in our backup windows. So we can now backup most of our databases on a daily basis," says Sarkar.

Citibank has plans to extend the SAN for disaster recovery.

Planned IT storage infrastructure

 

Overall
%

Small
%
Turnover Medium
%
Large
%
Direct Attached Storage (DAS) 20 20 18 20
NAS 30 30 31 29
SAN 20 13 13 23
Backup devices 36 38 29 43
Disaster recovery tools 29 14 34 36
Storage virtualization 5 7 3 5
Storage management 15 11 13 19
Base : All those who have invested in IT storage infrastructure or are planning to invest
 
     
- <Back to Top>-  

© Copyright 2001: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Limited (Mumbai, India). All rights reserved throughout the world.
This entire site is compiled in Mumbai by the Business Publications Division (BPD) of the Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Limited. Site managed by BPD.