Vendor Voice: Storage Consolidation
Consolidate storage in a modular way
Consolidating storage resources with modular storage systems
can help meet storage management challenges, without impacting availability
and performance. by Sudhakar Rao
To be competitive, businesses increasingly
rely on information to make day-to-day as well as strategic business decisions.
But just amassing data and information is not the answer—the key lies in transforming
this information into knowledge. Therefore, information has become a valuable
asset for any organization. Consequently, the amount of data that is stored,
and the amount of time it is kept online is perpetually growing. But while the
amount of data and information is growing, the resources to manage the growth
in data and information are not incremented. This presents a considerable challenge
to companies striving to exploit information for competitive advantage, and
to storage administrators responsible for storing, managing, and protecting
Adding to the challenge are competitive
pressures, market globalization, customers, partners, users, and technological
advances—which are changing the way enterprises do business and use technology.
With information becoming the key to success for businesses, the amount of data
that is being collected (about 250 MB per person, per year), and electronic
transactions are increasing rapidly. Many companies are losing ground in the
race to turn available data into valuable business knowledge. Indeed, for some
companies, storage requirements are doubling or tripling every three to six
Beyond just pure growth in data storage
requirements, non-stop access to information by external and internal users
is becoming more important than ever. While it is widely acknowledged that unscheduled
downtimes are unacceptable, companies are realizing that performance is becoming
equally important. Recent studies indicate that an average website visitor waits
only six seconds for a response to a request before heading for another website.
WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?
To meet the increasing storage requirements,
companies need to add more capacity to its existing storage infrastructure.
But unfortunately, when they add more capacity, they do not have the resources
that are used to manage these storage systems. Existing storage administrators
either have to become much more productive (manage many more terabytes), or
many more administrators will need to be hired.
According to IDC, storage administrators
have to become 60 percent more efficient every year just to keep up with the
growth. If the average administrator is responsible for 2 TB (terabytes) of
storage and nothing is done to make them more efficient, it is estimated that
there will be a need for more than 1.35 million administrators by 2004. But
even if there were enough administrators available, we should remember they
are expensive resources.
Adding to the storage management challenge
is the fact that storage resources can be widely distributed throughout an organization
and can be server-based or external (as in a SAN or NAS). Internal or server-based
storage, as the name suggests, is storage that is located within a server (DAS
storage). External storage encompasses all disk storage systems located separately
from the server system. But when storage is widely distributed throughout an
enterprise, managing it is difficult. For example, if storage is a mix between
internal and external, and spread throughout an organization, how is information
shared? How are storage procedures standardized? Here's the challenge. How do
companies keep pace with growing volumes of information and demand for always-on,
instantaneous access, while the resources to manage that information are not
even close to increasing at the same rates? Will adding more storage systems
solve the problem?
The answer to all these issues lies in
consolidating existing storage systems into a more manageable storage architecture.
Storage consolidation can not only support increased storage needs but also
simplify operations, and improve resource utilization and efficiency. By consolidating
or re-centralizing storage companies can benefit from efficient usage of storage,
maximization of server capabilities, increased open floor space, lowered management
costs, reduced storage devices, reduced software licenses, and decreased hardware
and software management costs.
Storage consolidation is centralization
of storage within an architecture that allows it to be shared by multiple hosts.
In view of this, consolidation takes the shape of multiple servers attached
directly to a single storage system, or consolidation of the existing storage
onto a SAN.
But the storage system that could be considered
for consolidation is largely dependent on the existing storage architecture
within an organization. Generally, most organizations use widely distributed
storage architectures, which are a mix of server based and external storage
systems. In such cases modular storage systems would be ideal since these offer
buy-as-you-grow options. They scale from less than 1 TB to well over 20 TB,
compared to monolithic storage, which can scale in excess of 70 TB. Most modular
storage systems allow components to be removed or added without bringing the
systems down. Many of the features that were previously only found on monolithic
systems are now available on modular storage systems.
But while considering buying a modular
storage system organizations need to consider some vital attributes of the modular
storage system that are key to storage consolidation projects. Since information
and data volumes are perpetually growing the modular storage systems have to
be scalable. It means that the modular storage system that is considered for
consolidation should not only meet the existing storage demands but also has
to meet the storage demands of the future. Generally, when higher capacity is
considered, then performance takes a back seat. But a strategic consideration
while looking for scalability of a storage system is that performance should
not be compromised as the solution scales to higher capacity. The bottom-line
is that scalability from a storage system should be sought on two parameters:
capacity and performance.
Apart from providing the required scalability
coupled with performance, the modular storage system should be able to support
a variety of hosts. It is because most organizations have a mix of platforms
and operating systems supporting various mission critical applications. In order
to avoid some of the mission critical applications not being able to connect
to the centralized storage, or for that matter, the storage system not being
able to support some future applications, it is imperative that the modular
storage systems implemented should provide the widest connectivity possible.
Further, the modular storage system should
be able to provide maximum terabyte capacity per footprint. This is the method
used to estimate the amount of real-estate space a storage system requires.
Environmental constraints form an important parameter that is considered for
storage consolidation. Factors like power consumption, and floor space become
important parameters during consolidation. So when choosing a modular storage
system, do consider the amount of data that can be packed within a specified
Besides, one should understand that storage
consolidation is more than replacing old storage systems with new ones. It involves
moving the data from old systems into new systems. Therefore, data migration
becomes an important part of any consolidation strategy. If you want the consolidation
to be successful, then plan the data migration carefully. Prior to the implementation
of any new storage system, a careful analysis of the existing storage environment
needs to be done, and specific plans need to be drawn for implementation of
a storage consolidation system. A successful plan will ensure that the migration
project is accurate and efficient. It will minimize the frustration involved
with the migration of data between dissimilar environments, and will decrease
the risk of data loss or corruption during the migration process.
Therefore, it is clear that for an organization
to avoid the complexities of managing the increasing data and information growth
in storage systems, they should go in for consolidation of the storage system.
Consolidating storage resources with modular storage systems can help meet the
challenges of efficient management of rapid data growth and improving an administrator's
productivity, without impacting availability and performance. Consolidating
onto modular storage systems can simplify operations, reduce TCO, and improve
productivity and resource efficiency.
The writer is a Technical Consultant at Hitachi