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Issue of February 2005 

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Enterprise Storage

Consolidate and continue

Storage consolidation and continuity is one of the focus areas for the Indian CIO, says Soutiman Das Gupta

G. Radhakrishnan Pillai, Head-Information Technology, SRL Ranbaxy

CIOs grappling with the ever-rising growth in data have been helped in their efforts by falling storage costs. Today, the Indian CIO has to ensure that his or her organisation has the ability to provide desired service levels without the cost of storage management going out of control. Depending on business needs, every Indian organisation is fine-tuning its storage strategy according to the industry segment in which it has a presence.

To take an example, the Essel Group runs a host of media and entertainment companies. One of their best-known television brands is Zee TV. In this industry, storage becomes even more strategic as content is the lifeline of the company. It also becomes very important to store media content in a reliable and secure environment where it can be archived, indexed and retrieved easily. Says Ishwar Jha, vice-president of business technology, Essel Group, "In line with our storage needs, we are looking at building a huge infrastructure of networked storage through NAS and SAN initiatives."

Consolidation and DR DRIVE growth

Organisations are also looking at consolidating their storage needs to reduce their storage management costs. Says R Arivazhagan, general manager, information technology, HDFC, "We are looking at consolidating our storage environment and setting up a business continuity infrastructure to ease the management and maintenance of crucial enterprise information." Similarly, Marico Industries is also looking at consolidating its storage infrastructure to a data centre in the company's Mumbai headquarters. It also plans to undertake SAN and NAS implementations.

Says Girish Rao, IT manager, Marico, "We will back up data on our application servers to a NAS device, and from there transfer the data to tape. We used a NAS device because we did not want to compromise on response time. However, data backup from desktops and workstations is already being done in a similar manner."

Another big trend is that organisations are setting up DR sites to ensure redundancy. OM Kotak Mahindra Life Insurance, LG Electronics India and SRL Ranbaxy are all planning to intensify their focus on networked storage (NAS and SAN) and disaster recovery in the current year. As a strategy, consolidation helps organisations plan a DR strategy in a more effective manner. Says Arivazhagan of HDFC, "Although we had set up a distributed storage infrastructure, we now want to consolidate our diverse storage infrastructures at a central point. This will make it easy for us to introduce and plan DR and business continuity activities in a better way. Moreover, administration and monitoring of the storage environment becomes simpler in a consolidated environment." Similarly, MIL wants to consolidate its storage infrastructure so that it can gain uninterrupted access to its ERP data and B2B portal.

Adds Arindam Bose, head, IT, LG Electronics India, "We have a business continuity planning strategy in place. The plan is to build a storage infrastructure based on this strategy. We intend to invest in SAN infrastructure along with investments in DR solutions to ensure protection and availability of data."

With storage needs booming, organisations are making detailed roadmaps on how their storage infrastructure should evolve.

For instance, the Essel group has made a blueprint of how its business will grow in the next five years. An essential part of the plan is to make productive use of media content produced by the company. "Since our company's core business is to preserve, protect and profit from media content, storage infrastructure is extremely important," explains Jha. In a media organisation, the content needs to be stored in such a way that it can be retrieved and converted easily to different formats as per the need. It is also important to provide access rights so that only the relevant person can access a particular piece of content.

Ishwar Jha
Vice President of Business Technology, Essel Group

Regulatory Pressure

The need for complying with local and international regulations is gaining importance. For instance, SEBI mandates that all Indian institutions should have a DR plan in place. Internationally, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act states that all business records, including electronic records and e-mail messages, must be saved for not less than five years.

"In the current business scenario, companies have to comply with a number of new regulations and laws to retain and prevent electronic records from being tampered with or deleted. Hence storage has become an integral part of the process, not only for the business to function but also to help it grow in the future," explains G Radhakrishnan Pillai, head, information technology, SRL Ranbaxy.

Organisations in verticals such as healthcare, life sciences, BFSI, PSUs and the government have to follow different sets of standards. For example, in the healthcare industry data needs to be retained for 15 years, including the raw data generated from scientific instruments and analysers.

Explains Pillai, "The rising number of electronic records, end-user and application compliance needs, in addition to industry best practices, determine the need and choice of a storage solution. All the above parameters are applicable for most companies in the healthcare industry. We are evaluating a SAN and a scientific data management system. For end-user compliance, a DR solution is on my shopping list for the current year." As per the data retention policy of SRL Ranbaxy, the organisation maintains scientific data for 15 years and other commercial data for eight years.

Technology trends

CIOs such as Arivazhagan of HDFC and Girish Rao of Marico believe that iSCSI will be a preferred technology for many organisations in 2005. Bose of LG Electronics feels that IP SANs will be adopted in a big way. Storage virtualisation, of SAN at the back end and NAS at the front end will become mainstream technology.

While vendors have initiatives to ensure inter-operability, this issue continues to be a concern area. Explains Jha, "Inter-operability of storage solutions from different vendors remains an issue to contend with." Unless a number of storage solution providers get together and agree to collaborate, the user will continue to be inconvenienced."

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached

Top Trends

  • SAN at the back end and NAS at the front end are expected to become standard fare
  • Storage consolidation will become a mainstream technology
  • Regulatory compliance will continue to drive storage adoption
  • Investment in business continuity and disaster recovery will increase
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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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