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Issue of January 2004 

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Cover Story: Storage and Disaster Recovery

Utilize the optimal way

Indian companies will need to optimize their storage infrastructure and create strategies in 2004. And the aspect of business continuity planning will need a lot more CIO attention, if companies want to conduct uninterrupted business.

Soutiman Das Gupta

The amount of data in an organization has grown worldwide and Indian companies are no exception. The increased use of enterprise-wide applications like ERP, CRM, and financial packages, and overall organizational growth have driven the creation of large amounts of data in enterprises.

But in the offset, networked storage in Indian enterprises has always been an area that has not, historically, received the attention that it deserves. This is due to various reasons like lack of budget, improper planning, more emphasis on other aspects of IT (security, applications), and lack of higher management buy-in.

And to top it all, the few who have invested in some form of networked storage like NASs, are not happy with the solution. Dr. Sourav Dutta, Dy General Manager (Systems), VSNL talks about the general level of satisfaction among users of NAS in Indian enterprises.

"CIOs are quite fed-up of NAS. A lot of companies, especially the first-movers have deployed NAS, but it has not proved to be a very useful technology. It is very heavy on network resources and slows down network performance. Even if backup is scheduled during off-peak hours, it doesn't entirely satisfy the performance needs of an organization."

The 2004 trends

Not much has changed by way of storage technologies in general. Enterprises still have to chose between NAS and SAN. But what must change in Indian enterprises is the way it manages and makes strategies regarding the use of storage.

Manoj Chandiramani, Assistant Vice-President-Networks, Refco-Sify Securities India Private Limited, feels the same way. He also feels that the lack of centralized management for servers, storage, OSs, and different hardware platforms adds to the complexity.

"This results in poor resource utilization, difficulty of problem identification, and delayed resolution. Taking the above issues into account, the trends in India will be towards effective maintenance of data. Enterprises will have to consider aspects like best practices, deployment of data management applications, and centralization of data."

C. Kajwadkar, Vice President, NSE.IT Limited says, "Indian enterprises that use networked storage have learnt to separate storage infrastructure from the rest of the IT setup. And this will put pressure on the companies and vendors to enhance their storage management products."

Driving SAN

"Indian enterprises still have a mindset of using DAS. This is because networked storage is still not a priority area for many companies," opines Dr Dutta. However most companies that have large storage requirements like banks and telecom companies, use SAN. And SANs will continue to be present in Indian enterprises which require networked storage as a mandate.

Even in the companies which use SANs, the need to procure the high-end hardware has been driven mostly by the applications (banking, billing), and the very nature of high volume business involving thousands of customers, a number of products, and a number of locations.

Making clear strategies

Kajwadkar feels that Indian enterprises will need to train 'Storage Administrators' like they trained database administrators and system administrators a few years ago. And these personnel should work to create storage management strategies.

To this, Chandiramani adds that companies should look at effectively organizing and deploying employees who work with these strategists (at the implementation/day to day activity level), as it is the most fundamental requirement for a strategy to succeed.

Indian enterprises will need to :

  • Deploy enterprise wide data protection/storage management, rather than departmental storage management.
  • Implement storage management software to leverage existing IT infrastructure, which should be capable of seamlessly integrating into newer storage technologies.
  • Reduce the cost of ownership by implementing storage management with best approach to contain the operational costs.
  • Allow easy management features through Web-enabled facilities, which support multiple OSs, hardware platforms, varied applications, and databases.
  • The storage infrastructure should have disaster recovery capabilities and should give high performance standards on different backup devices.

Business continuity

Although there is a lot of talk around 'Business Continuity Planning', how serious are Indian companies about BCP?

Dr Dutta is very skeptical about the awareness and practice of BCP in Indian companies. "BCP in Indian companies is still a lot of hype. Companies merely talk about it because they want to look very principled and organized. But sadly, they do not follow the practices. Some use a half-baked solution where they use a DR site, but the image at the site is not updated."

"Indian companies fall short in BCP or DR practices in terms of recovery functions. The systems are implemented but are never tested. So a nightmare occurs when a failure happens and the DR systems don't work," explained Chandiramani.

BCP trends

The role of BCP in Indian enterprises is not expected to change very radically in 2004. It's on the lines of an old belief, that you only lock the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Perhaps it will take an actual disaster, which will involve loss of data to convince the Indian CIO to get very serious about BCP. But the level of awareness has increased from last year. We see data centers and hosting service providers being approached to act as DR mirrors and remote DR sites.

Changes for better BCP

Kajwadkar feels that a clear understanding of 'incidence' management strategies and BCP strategies is needed. Many enterprises tend to confuse and mix the two, which yields incomplete BCP strategies. Indian enterprises need to look at the comprehensiveness in greater detail.

Indian enterprises usually fall short in their DR preparation efforts in these aspects:

  • Companies create only partial coverage and partial implementation policies.
  • No DR drills are conducted by the organization. And BCP 'maintenance' is not seen as a requirement.
  • Once implemented, enterprises tend to keep BCP on the shelves. BCP is actually a continuous practice.

The last byte

Storage and BCP combine to create an area where there is plenty of room for new developments. And when a strategy is created, there will be higher management buy-in and a fair bit of money available for funding. This should make the future interesting to watch as the market matures. We're bound to see some consolidation and the capabilities of the products improve too.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at

FAS around the corner
Fabric Attached Storage (FAS) may become a very popular means of storage in 2004, feels. Dr. Sourav Dutta, Dy General Manager (Systems), VSNL. This unified storage technology can be utilized by plugging in a card into the server. The server then communicates the storage through the fiber into the repository.

The biggest benefit of FAS is that it uses open protocols and is platform independent. This allows easy interoperability. In the current market conditions where most high-end SAN solutions are proprietary, FAS has a good chance of emerging as a popular choice among Indian companies.

Solution Provider Perspectives
Here's what a few vendors and service providers have to say about storage and disaster recovery trends in Indian enterprises in 2004.

K.N.Prasad, Head - Marketing & Alliances, APARA Enterprise Solutions
"Data lifecycle management will assume significance as customers start assessing criticality and usage of data, and plan their future infrastructure strategies."

Idris Vasi, Director, Optical & Storage Networking, Cisco Systems APAC
"The transition to a network storage environment is underway. However, it is not expected to occur evenly across organizations of different sizes or between industry sectors."

Kalyan Kumar, Technical Marketing Manager, Converged Networks Business Unit, HCL Comnet
Storage Virtualization and Storage over IP are going to be the key trends to drive on. I see that storage would move to packet-based networks, as there is no need to have islands of storage boxes in an enterprise.

Avijit Basu, Marketing Manager, Network Storage Solutions, Enterprise Systems Group, Hewlett-Packard India
"There will be three key BCP trends, namely disaster tolerant, business recovery, and backup & recovery. Indian companies will take a full-view approach to bring the proper balance of technology, services, infrastructure, people, and processes to help achieve the level of business continuity that is most appropriate for the end-users."

Sandeep Dutta, Director-Strategic Partnerships, Network Appliance
"Due to the cost and complexity of Fiber Channel, technologies like iSCSI will gain prominence."

Sharad Sanghi, Managing Director, Netmagic Solutions
"Enterprises are becoming more comfortable with the idea of outsourcing their storage requirements to qualified data centers. We're also witnessing an upsurge in DR requirements being outsourced to data centers."

Anil Valluri, Director (Systems Engineering), Sun Microsystems India Pvt Ltd
"Indian enterprises are converging towards an intelligent infrastructure for data storage. The ideal solution will be to build a centralized, secure pool of storage that can be provisioned out to individual departments, workgroups, or tenants."

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