Storage on tap
Tackling issues like interoperability and scalability is
a routine thing for CIOs. But what really matters today is the availability
of information. by Prashant L Rao and Abhinav Singh.
One would think that cost or the shortage of qualified storage administrators
would keep CIOs awake at night. Interestingly, it's neither of these factors
that keeps CIOs on their toes. It's interoperability that Indian CIOs cite as
the biggest problem they face when it comes to deploying storage in their organizations.
Next comes scalability. Here there are tools and technologies to tackle this
issue head on. Which is why you find storage deployments of dozens of terabytes
scaling upwards. Storage infrastructure outsourcing has begun but most companies
(particularly in BFSI) are prudent about putting their crown jewels, the core
data of their systems, onto a third-party storage boxes. Lastly, while Indian
organizations don't have any regulations as such that compel them to act in
a particular way, when it comes to archival and storage management, guidelines
and ties with US companies are prodding many companies into archiving their
historical data in a planned manner.
Manoj Chugh, President - India & SAARC, EMC Corporation says, "Ten
years ago companies invested in computerizing different locationsmanufacturing
in semi-rural areas and marketing offices in cities. Some manufacturing companies
centralized their ERP systems, others didn't. The net result of all this is
silos of information. There are multiple computing platformsSIAS, RISC
and mainframeseach with its own storage. Huge investments have been made
into internal and external storageNAS and SAN. Today billing information
is required for CRM, data warehousing and business intelligence. CIOs need to
consolidate and provide access to build competitive advantage for their organizations.
It is no longer about land, factories or manpower. Today it is the ability of
an organization to harness information that counts. Storage is extremely important
as information lives in storage."
Storage in India
The Indian storage market was worth $100 million in revenue terms, for the first
three quarters of 2003. About 3,000 TB was sold during this period. 70 percent
of this figure consisted of external storage with the remainder being internal
storage. IDC believes that the Indian storage market will grow at a CAGR of
65 percent up to 2007. Telecom, BFSI, manufacturing, and BPO are expected to
be the biggest spenders on storage this year as are SMEs.
Storage management challenges
IT Managers usually cite cost, interoperability, and scalability as the biggest
challenges when it comes to managing storage. Let's take a look at how they
Interestingly cost is not rated highly as a parameter by most CIOs. Most of
the CIOs we talked to rated cost as the least important parameter when it comes
to storage infrastructure and the management challenges associated with it.
Getting qualified storage administrators
In stark contrast to the global shortage of qualified storage administrators,
Indian CIOs unanimously concur that there is no dearth of HR talent when it
comes to storage administration.
Choosing the right tools and technology for storage management is a challenge
for IT heads. They have to pick tools that provide an effective ROI.
Interoperability for cross vendor products
This is perhaps the most crucial aspect of storage management. "CIOs can
change servers but it is difficult to migrate and share information from one
platform to another. If you have information in a Xeon server or mainframe,
how do you move the information and share it and ensure integrity? Interoperability
is extremely important," says Chugh.
"Interoperability has the maximum impact in storage management and data
replication," concurs Sandeep Dutta, Director - Strategic Partnerships
& Marketing, Network Appliance India Pvt. Ltd.
Solving the interoperability conundrum
Virtualization makes it easy to shift resources, particularly when a company
already has a SAN in place. IBM's TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller (SVC) gives
a virtualized view of storage to all servers. "It can be a Linux box or
even a blade on the SAN switch," says Shailesh Agarwal, Country Manager-Storage,
IBM India. IBM also has Tivoli Storage Resource Manager, a solution that gives
an administrator a view of storage utilization as a resource in the company.
Cisco believes that fabric virtualization is the answer. Here the storage host
doesn't have to worry about where the data resides. It has teamed up with Veritas
and IBM and it has implemented IBM's SVC software as a virtualization blade
for its Director switches.
Idris T. Vasi, Director, Optical & Storage Networking, Cisco Systems, Asia-Pacific
says, "Large enterprises with storage boxes from multiple vendors that
do not talk to each other end up with only 50 percent utilization as the boxes
can't share their capacity. Fabric virtualization gives an organization a single
pool of storage."
Benny Chan, Business Development Manager - Storage Networking, Cisco Systems
Asia Pacific explains, "Say you have an EMC and a IBM box. You just define
a LUN (logical unit number) in both the EMC and the IBM arrays. Fabric Virtualization
shows them as one VLUN (Virtual LUN) to the host server."
"Business Continuity is not a technology issue. It's about an organization's
requirement for a particular continuity level. A stock exchange has a different
requirement than a finance company or a manufacturer. Some companies have a
higher dependence on their data than others. Payroll is not critical (throughout
the month). So it doesn't make sense to put it along with mission critical applications
on a storage array with Fiber Channel disks. But if you add cheaper boxes the
setup becomes more complex to manage. If the payroll application has to run
for two days a month it can temporarily be shifted to the high performance box
and shifted back to a low-cost storage box after that period," says Agarwal.
Storage management in DR sites
For IDBI Bank, selecting different solutions was a challenge while setting up
a DR site. Defining data retrieval considerations depending on criticality is
Additional business applications such as warehouse management, SCM, workflow
data pushed Hero Honda to look into networked storage (SAN) for business continuity
and disaster recovery. The company has a SAN architecture and uses IBM ESS SAN
boxes, Fiber Channel Brocade switches. IBM's Tivoli network management software
is used for automating tape backups eliminating human intervention for managing
backups and shrinking the backup window.
Rapid Growth of data
"The rapid growth of data is a challenge as we are expanding rapidly. For
instance, we had 30 branches in the beginning of 2004. This has increased to
40 branches in just three months. We are expecting that our stock points will
increase from 40 to 65 by end 2004 and area offices are expected to increase
from 64 today to about 100 by the end of this year generating huge amounts of
data. Managing and securing it will be a big challenge for us," says Daya
Prakash, project manager (LG Electronics India - ERP & eBiz) at LG Soft
India Pvt Ltd.
Enormous increases in the amounts of data are the norm rather than the exception.
For instance, last year Wipro Technologies got 13 lakh e-mail messages every
week. This year that's shot up to 23 lakh messages per week.
After going live with its mySAP ERP system in 2001, Hero Honda saw a rapid growth
in its data storage requirements. S.R. Balasubramanian, vice president-IS, Hero
Honda Motors Ltd says, "Earlier we were using disk-based storage that resulted
in poor performance and under-utilization of disks. Additionally, in the event
of an ERP crash, both the ERP system and the data needed to be recovered and
restored. This meant that no data is available for the next 24 to 30 hours for
both our suppliers and for us."
As IDBI Bank uses OLTP software, it uses IO-SAN to get good throughput on
its storage network. The bank has consolidated all its business critical applications
and its storage boxes are all fiber-based.
Outsourcing of storage infrastructure
"We never outsource our storage requirement needs to any third-party storage
service vendor due to security concerns," says Sharma of IDBI Bank.
Prakash of LG states that LG hasn't outsourced its storage needs to a third-party
as its storage requirements are growing at a fast pace and it is still not convinced
as to whether there is a storage service provider that can keep pace. "We
have 40 branches, 70 area offices and 40 stock points, which generate huge chunk
of data. We are also apprehensiv e about outsourcing our storage requirements
due to security implications," says Prakash. LGEIL has strict corporate
guidelines and it is moving towards BS-7799 standardization. After achieving
that it may explore outsourcing storage to a third-party.
Wipro Technologies outsources its storage backup to storage service providers
(SSPs) in the United States and Europe, as it is cost-effective when compared
to doing it in-house. The company has users located across the US and Europe
and it isn't practical to set up infrastructure at all these locations. Management
of storage backup is best met by outsourcing to a third-party storage service
provider. Wipro Technologies may consider outsourcing its Indian storage needs
to a third-party provider, but to date it hasn't come across any SSP that can
provide the kind of services it wants. Wipro Technologies complies with security
standards such as BS-7799 and all security checkpoints are adhered to before
storage needs are outsourced.
In the case of HDFC Bank, storage is owned by the bank but it does outsource
SAN lifecycle management. "However we have a team within the Bank that
understands the SAN and oversees solutions offered by vendors," says S.R.
Balasubramanian, vice-president - IT of HDFC Bank.
Hero Honda does not believe in outsourcing its storage infrastructure to third-party
service providers. It has built up an IT team and acquired domain expertise
in deploying and managing IT systems. "We have a dedicated six member IT
team that takes care of managing servers and networks," says Balasubramanian,
Hero Honda. The company does not have any plans to outsource its storage infrastructure
in the future.
Sharad Sanghi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, NetMagic says,
"Though most BFSI companies have concerns about outsourcing data, they
do outsource messaging and application hosting." The BFSI sector tends
to manage critical data in-house.
"Several banks are our customers for services such as remote infrastructure
management, messaging, basic customer facing applications, mailers and statements.
We also do strategic consulting, we've done some for ICICI Bank. 90 percent
of BFSI companies are more comfortable doing it in-house. We host Morgan Stanley
but their core data is not with us," says Sanghi.
NetMagic hosts BPO, logistics, manufacturing and e-commerce companies (Baazee.com
is a customer).
Avinash J., President, Hosting Services, Satyam Infoway Limited (Sify) says,
"Today most DCs (data centers) make money out of managed services."
Sify's managed services customers span the gamut of the major verticals. The
list includes the State Bank of India, ING Vysyalife, HDFC Life Insurance, Skoda
Auto India Ltd, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd and New Delhi Television.
Sify's main thrust in DR services is in the area of tape backup. Most of its
customers want their data to be restored within four hours for which tape backup
works well enough. Customers who want faster restoration are offered replication
on a storage device (dedicated or shared).
Although Sify's banking customers continue to host their core banking solution
in-house, some of them run a backup to their core banking system at Sify's data
centers. Many banks host their Internet banking application that links to the
core banking piece with Sify.
Most outsourcing contracts are services dedicated to customers. Sify offers
hot standbys in alternative locations. Some companies want the locations to
be in two different seismic zones, others want them in two different countries.
US companies that have applications developed by an Indian partner go for this
kind of solution. Applications continue to be hosted out of the US in such cases
due to the time delay constraint.
While it is technically possible to use a load balancing solution and do replication
online, few organizations go for this as it's expensive. Some large enterprises
and gaming companies do go in for real-time replication. Transaction processing,
core banking and similar applications may need real-time replication.
Prashant Rao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
While there are elegant ways of managing structured
data including HSM and automated retrieval, unstructured data is a problem.
E-mail is a classic example of unstructured data. MPEG and MP3 files
are other examples of non-structured data. "Solutions, especially
in e-mail archiving, help you archive and manage e-mail to increase
productivity. Most e-mail implementations try to restrict usage to x
MB per user and ban attachments. Backup and recovery is undertaken through
PST files. This is cumbersome and it inhibits user productivity and
increasing management costs," says V. Vivekanand, sales director-India,
Hitachi Data Systems.
There are various solutions for managing e-mail
including Unlimited Mailbox from Hitachi that hashes every single mail
based on user, sender, attachments and content before archiving it.
The system administrator can retrieve individual files based on parameters
or any hash functions. With e-mail becoming a statutory requirement
under storage compliance most storage vendors have a solution for this
problem. Sun has its Infinite mailbox that helps automatically archive
"The Sarabanes-Oxley Act along with Basel
II regulation for banks are the two main regulations. Companies in banking
and BPO are complying with regulations," says Anil Valluri, Director
- Systems Engineering, Sun Microsystems.
HDFC Bank has a well defined policy for storing
historical data (both in tape media as well as online up to a particular
period). "We are working with vendors on storing such data on less
expensive media that can also be preserved for a few decades in text form.
The most important aspect is the retrieval of such information on storage
devices that may be available at a future date (forward compatibility).
Another challenge will be the type of servers that may be used and the
applications that are written to retrieve such information at a future
date," says Balasubramanian, HDFC Bank.
While there are no regulations as such, government
departments such as the Income Tax department and banks keep their data
for eight to 10 years. Indian banks follow RBI guidelines.
LGEIL has a policy that it will have all its data
stored for at least eight years and then get rid of that information.
It has a central repository of information that helps the organization
share information with overseas suppliers. The company has implemented
data portioning (to make data available in online and offline mode) and
data purge to ensure that information is available at short notice and
retrieval is fast. Information is kept for a minimum of two years in online
mode and it is available up to eight years in offline mode.
Wipro Technologies thinks that Sarabanes-Oxley
and HIPAA are the two principal regulations that it needs to comply with
while dealing with overseas customers in Healthcare. The company is using
storage software from HP and EMC. It has a data retention policy that
stores data on tapes. It is building up disk infrastructure to the point
where it will be capable of holding a minimum of three months of data
after which the data is shifted to tape.
Hero Honda is taking two steps to manage the storage
and archival of historical data. Firstly, data that does not require online
storage (legal documents etc.) is archived and the company intends to
use a low-cost tape-based storage solution. The second option is to microfilm
old data from legal and accounting including ledgers and vouchers that
are photographed and converted into microfilms for storage.