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Large Enterprise Forum

Simplifying storage infrastructure

Enterprises that wish to get a grip on their information resources need to manage storage infrastructure in a simpler manner. by Soutiman Das Gupta

Information in many organisations is doubling or tripling in a year’s time. An organisation’s storage infrastructure has to grow proportionately, in order to make information always available to the business. In an unmanaged or poorly managed IT environment, it is expected that the storage infrastructure will bloat and become unmanageable and under-utilised if information is not consolidated.

In such a situation it is necessary to use strategies, processes, and technologies that will help the organisation gain better control over storage resources and infrastructure. Some of the means that can be used are storage consolidation, virtualisation, and open environments.

Storage Purchases Never End

The apocryphal tale of organisations continuously purchasing storage capacity every month is not far from the truth. A difference can be made only if CIOs manage their storage infrastructures more efficiently.

Mark Hollands, Vice-president, Strategy, Gartner Asia-Pacific, cites an example of an audit at a bank in Australia. He explains that the information resources were large and it took nine months to complete. The audit found that duplication was rife across the organisation, which is typical of a big organisation, and there was no policy to archive or retire the unused data. So, unused data was sitting on expensive hardware and the company failed to monitor the usage and cost structure of information storage. Such a situation urgently requires a simplification of storage infrastructure.

Keys To Storage Simplification

CIOs need to focus on a number of areas in order to simplify their storage infrastructure and implement consistency.

B Ramesh, Senior Technical Specialist, Storage, IBM Global Services India, explains, “CIOs need to lower costs through consolidation, improve efficiency with the help of virtualisation techniques, and improve overall efficacy through automation.”

Consolidation—A Stepping Stone

Alok Ohrie
Vice-president, Systems and Technology Group
IBM India

“A good way to begin the simplification process is to consolidate storage resources. It is an effective strategy to bring consistency to the enterprise. CIOs are aware that consolidation rarely means consolidating to a single type of server platform, operating system, or storage system,” says Alok Ohrie, Vice-president, Systems and Technology Group, IBM India.

Consolidation is never a one-size-fits-all process and a good way to start the process is to talk to business heads. “This can help CIOs understand what the business truly does, how it uses information, and the true demands of information. It can be followed by the processes of planning, and deciding upon the technology,” explains Hollands.

When the above processes have been set in motion and CIOs have a clear picture of the outcome of the initiatives, it is time to think of consolidation, along with aspects such as availability, replication, and data security.

Mark Hollands
Vice-president, Strategy
Gartner Asia-Pacific

“Consolidation is not just a question of trying to pull data to one bigger server from two smaller servers. It’s more than that,” says Hollands. The key to successful consolidation is to simplify the infrastructure connecting all IT elements, and manage their interaction.

Vital Signs

The key to successful consolidation is to simplify the infrastructure connecting all IT elements, and manage their interaction

Hollands continues, “Consolidation can never be entirely done in an organisation. You can get to a certain point but never finish because there’s always so much to store.”

However there are a few vital signs that indicate that the consolidation exercise has been successful. CIOs are able to show cost benefits in a structured manner and use policies to retire data over time. These policies will be executed at certain points in the information lifecycle.

A satisfaction survey among business users will yield good results. For instance, the marketing department will get access to information where and when it wants.

“The company will use policy-based automation to make reports and introduce efficiency in existing processes,” says Ohrie.

Some costs will be soft, and some hard. Hollands makes an interesting point, “With the demands of never-ending storage requirements, I doubt that companies will be able to reduce costs of storage. They can, however, spend the money in a more intelligent manner.”

Virtualisation Helps

B Ramesh
Senior Technical Specialist, Storage
IBM Global Services India

The advantages of the virtualisation of logical volume and file management infrastructure hold great promise for CIOs needing to get more from current and future storage consolidation efforts. This is especially true for companies that seek to leverage virtualisation technologies on storage or servers to enable rapid, on-demand allocation of processing resources.

“The biggest benefit of virtualisation is that there is better availability of applications,” claims Ramesh.

Delivering on the promise of storage consolidation and virtualisation requires the providers of such solutions to address several important concerns.

CIOs need flexibility in deployment options. For instance, they may need array-based, network-based, and server-based versions without sacrificing consistency and commonality of functions. Companies may need scalability in the infrastructure that is simple, quick, and cost-effective, with minimal disruption to ongoing operations. They may also need volume and file virtualisation that is rapid, painless and accompanied by data and application migration services across heterogeneous server and storage environments.

“The use of a SAN Volume Controller (SVC) will provide benefits such as a single manageable interface for all servers. All servers see only one storage set-up and this provides a single space to manage backups, and the entire infrastructure acts as a homogeneous whole,” explains Ohrie.

Communicating To The CEOs

For CIOs to carry out storage simplification they must be able to approach CEOs to seek approval for the budget. Even though expenditure for storage simplification is part of the IT budget the CEO may want to know where the money has been spent.

Here’s an approach for CIOs to handle the task of budget sanction. CIOs could show the CEOs the bill for managing the current information storage infrastructure and the value received by the company for the service. CIOs can then explain the frustration that business users have to endure related to information access, archival, and retrieval. CEOs could also be told about the wastage of resources because rarely-used data still resides on expensive servers.

“When the CEO is convinced about the wastage, need and costs, there will be a business case on which approval will follow,” asserts Hollands.


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