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Issue of June 2004 

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TCO and storage management are key focus areas

The spotlight is on storage management and virtualization as Indian companies move from DAS to networked storage. by Akhtar Pasha

Enterprises across the board are concerned about data protection, business continuity and disaster recovery.

Interest in Direct Attached Storage (DAS) is waning. Today, 46 percent of the BFSI segment has invested in DAS but only 17 percent of these financial companies will invest in DAS during 2004-2005. Similarly in Telecom, although 53 percent have DAS as part of their storage set-up, only a fifth plan to invest anew in this storage architecture.

Enterprises have acknowledged the benefits offered by networked storage. As data volumes rise, DAS is unable to cope with the exponential growth. Networked storage has become affordable, even SMEs are investing in it.

Business productivity and application performance are linked to storage. As several terabytes of data accumulate (in the case of banks and software development houses), it becomes imperative for these organizations to make the switchover from DAS to Network Attached Storage (NAS).

Disk utilization is poor in DAS. If a server has maxed out, while another is under-utilized, there's no way businesses can re-allocate the extra storage capacity (on the fly). There is also a limit on the number of SCSI ports, and thus a limit to the capacity that can be directly attached to each server. When a server runs out of DAS storage capacity, an additional server must be added. The need to keep adding servers as storage needs grow makes scaling quite painful in a DAS environment. When a server goes down or is taken offline for expansion or maintenance, all data attached to it becomes unavailable.

Less focus on backup and DR

Since BFSI, Telecom/IT/ITES, Auto/Auto components firms have already invested in IT infrastructure including storage and DR, the investments in backup devices such as tape drives and DR will see a dip in the current year.

83 percent of the respondents in BFSI already have the necessary tape backup infrastructure in place. It is not surprising then that only 38 percent want to invest in backup devices this year. Similarly on an average, the percentage of companies in verticals such as Manufacturing/ Engineering, and Auto/Auto components, and Telecom investing in backup devices will almost halve.

BFSI, Telecom/IT/ITES and Auto/Auto components companies have already deployed a disaster recovery solution. Sophisticated banks have invested in secondary disaster recovery in remote locations in addition to the primary DR site. This is primarily because their businesses are data critical.

Chemical and Pharmaceuticals have recently invested in enterprise wide applications such as ERP and SCM, and now want to have some kind of disaster recovery solution in place. The drug discovery process generates large amounts of data. So the focus here will be on business continuity and disaster recovery. The number of companies in this vertical investing in DR and business continuity will rise from 21 to 32 percent in 2004-05.

There are several e-government projects including e-Bhoomi, and e-Seva. These deal with millions of records every month. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have already announced plans to invest in a DR center. The 20 respondents in the government vertical say that 30 percent of their storage investment will go into DR and related tools.

Enterprise Storage Network (ESN)

Businesses are in a dilemma when it comes to choosing a networked storage technology. Should they go in for a NAS or a SAN? The combination of NAS and SAN, termed ESN (Enterprise Storage Network), makes sense when enterprise storage consumers have varied applications and bandwidth requirements within the same IT infrastructure. For example Auto/Auto components, or Manufacturing/Engineering companies can have integrated technologies. In manufacturing, for instance, the CAD/CAM environment can use NAS whereas an SCM solution would use a SAN architecture. Banks can rely on NAS filers for corporate banking and SAN for retail banking.

Likewise, there are several businesses that are in the process of consolidating storage.

31 percent of survey respondents plan to invest in NAS, while a fifth are bullish about SAN technologies. Some businesses are re-designing their storage architecture so that they can reap the benefit of networked storage—for better storage resource utilization, storage management and low TCO.

Some public sector banks and corporation banks are going in for core banking systems (CBS). These banks would need high availability of data and applications, and therefore DR and BC solutions. SANs are required for companies that have high transactional volumes such as Telcos and Auto/Auto component manufacturers. As only 22 percent of companies currently have a SAN infrastructure in place, the potential for investment in this area is quite high.

Management and virtualization

The growth in networked storage and management of SAN infrastructure is driving the need for storage management software. For example banking is a highly transaction oriented business. Digital imaging and audio applications are also contributing to a massive explosion in storage capacity. Backup and restore applications are driving the storage management software market in India. Businesses can use storage management software for optimal usage of the disks, while keeping hardware costs low. Effective storage software helps lower the cost of disks by letting departments and applications pool their storage resources.

Storage virtualization (SV) is still in its early stages, so it is not surprising that only 4 percent have storage virtualization in place and another 5 percent plan to deploy this technology. Virtualization is starting to get some attention where a SAN infrastructure is already in place—in BFSI, Auto/Auto components, Telecom and Pharmaceuticals.

The BFSI segment, telecom, and oil companies that were early to adopt SAN are now slowly beginning to realize the importance of storage virtualization.

Research Snapshots
  • NAS is eating into DAS. DAS is dropping off the enterprise radar as less than a fifth of the respondents are investing in it, down from close to half last year.
  • SAN deployments will continue in BFSI, telecom, automobile & auto component.
  • The BFSI and Govt/PSU verticals are the largest implementers of storage management software at 25 percent and 15 percent respectively.
  • Today one in a hundred companies uses storage virtualization. Momentum is building, however, 5 percent of companies will deploy storage virtualization this year.
  • Chemical and pharmaceuticals will spend heavily on DR (32 percent), closely followed by Govt/PSUs (30 percent).
  • 72 percent of the organizations interviewed have some kind of backup solution in place. 31 percent are investing this year.

NM Suggests
  • Businesses, even small and medium enterprises should concentrate on core storage issues—poor disk utilization, scalability, lower TCO and storage management. They should make the shift from DAS to networked storage.
  • Companies need to test their backups to see if they really work.
  • Buying additional servers when a company runs out of storage capacity isn't the answer. Storage management software can help squeeze the most out of your existing storage hardware.
  • SANs are a must in any set-up where high availability and transaction volumes are a fact of life. Think BFSI, telecom, oil & gas and automotive/component manufacturing.
  • After SAN, the next step is storage virtualization.

Market trends driving storage virtualization

Large enterprise SANs often contain storage boxes from various vendors. The types of disks deployed, their performance levels, functionalities such as RAID or mirroring all vary from set-up to set-up. Companies end up with a heterogeneous environment as a result of mergers or consolidations. Storage and SAN administrators need to configure storage to servers, and then keep track of which servers own or have access to what storage. Storage administrative tasks can become daunting as the SAN grows because storage administrators have to manually manage it.

There are important issues that need to be sorted out in storage virtualization. Data migrated from an older storage subsystem cannot be shared with newer boxes.

SV will help businesses add functionality. A business using a small box with, say, 3 TB capacity would usually require another 3TB on the same box to do a flash copy. A smarter option would be to move data to a low cost disk array and use that for flash copy. Secondly replication of a large block of data becomes complex in a disaster recovery scenario if a business uses storage boxes from different vendors. Customers are asking for solutions that let them add disk space without bringing the application down or let them migrate low performance applications to high performance storage boxes on a schedule without disrupting the network.

Virtualization can help in all these cases. It lets CIOs consolidate resources and provide policy-based automation.

The shift towards SAN at VSNL
Some time ago, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) used DAS devices for its storage needs. But being the country's largest ISP demanded that it should upgrade to more efficient storage architecture. It determined that a SAN was the optimal solution for these requirements.

"The primary need was to have a storage solution that would give us the flexibility to handle failures and cut down on the costs of incremental storage. In addition to these, we required high-speed connectivity that could be achieved only by using a SAN," said Dr Saurav Dutta, former Dy. General Manager (Systems), VSNL.

Networked Architecture

VSNL's storage solution is used for Internet messaging, voice, data, and network analyzer applications. The Internet messaging applications are powered by a SAN from Hitachi Data Systems (HDS). This storage network powers a billing solution (portal using an Oracle database backend) and a Netscape Messaging solution.

VSNL has registered significant benefits from the SAN implementation. "We have been able to achieve around forty percent savings in purchase and deployment costs. This includes savings due to the use of a huge virtual storage pool achieved by the consolidation of devices," said Dr Dutta.

In the future, VSNL plans to upgrade the SAN capacity to five TB.

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