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Emerging Enterprise Forum

Managing the data explosion

Enterprise data stores keep growing, and it is critical to put management processes in place to keep information in rein, says Soutiman Das Gupta

Madan Mishra
Executive Director, IT Seagate

To satisfy the access and availability demands of today’s distributed and demanding business environments, enterprise data storage is becoming network-centric. That said, hardware alone is not enough to create an effective, cost-efficient network storage strategy. Information keeps pouring in from all areas of a business and leads to data explosion in the enterprise.

Many CIOs continue to buy cheap disk storage to deal with the overload. This approach will force companies to hire additional personnel and spend more than necessary to manage their data effectively.

The Hurdles

There are many challenges to the enterprise information storage architecture that lead to the data explosion.

The number of enterprise applications used in organisations is increasing, and the number of core functions is growing as well. The increase in data volumes is proportional to the increasing number of application deployments such as enterprise resource planning, enterprise data warehouses, business intelligence, data mining, and active data warehouses. Performance and data intensive applications such as document or content management systems and image processing further exacerbate this problem.

“The performance of the storage system reduces with the rise in data volumes and creates scalability challenges for the enterprise,” says Madan Mishra, Executive Director, IT, Seagate.

Lack of consolidation is a formidable challenge. In a distributed storage infrastructure, usage is always poor and therefore the enterprise suffers from data being unavailable when load peaks. This also creates downtime every time new capacity needs to be added.

There is usually a limited window of time for backup. Chances of data replication in the various areas of the business are high, and the cost of storage administration rises in such a situation.

Problems In The Long Run

There may be issues related to security and mobility. With the increased number of mobile access devices used by mobile workers in organisations, there is a lot of information flowing through channels previously undiscovered by the system. There may be data loss which could create legal and compliance issues, and may ultimately erode the organisation’s competitive value.

Management of data throughout its lifecycle, including backups, retention and archiving, becomes increasingly difficult. There are also technology issues such as input/output performance, bandwidth, bus speed, and less fault tolerance. Business continuity—disaster recovery and data mirroring—becomes more complex.

Addressing The Challenges

CIOs have to initiate strategies and processes to address all the storage management challenges created by the data explosion.

“CIOs must respond and adapt dynamically to changing business and application requirements. They must be in step with the evolving needs of the business and the market,” says Mishra.

They must be in constant communication with business heads and try to understand what the business needs from its information management systems. The storage infrastructure must have more resilience than that achievable by traditional means.

“A few good ways to simplify storage management are to efficiently utilise disk space, simplify allocation of disk space to servers, and allow changes at a physical level with no server impact,” suggests Madan Mishra of Seagate

Disaster recovery measures must be proactive. They should be flexible and transparent to deploy, scale, and manage. Storage resources should be configured in such a way that they can be easily shared across servers and applications in a simplified manner.

“A few good ways to simplify storage management are to efficiently utilise disk space, simplify allocation of disk space to servers, and allow changes at a physical level with no server impact,” suggests Mishra.

These efforts will ultimately improve the efficiency of the overall IT environment, and provide a higher level of fault-tolerance and resilience.

Supporting Technologies

A few technologies promise to provide more efficiency in storage systems in future. They are 3 Gbps SATA and Serial Attached SCSI (SAS).

A SATA 3 Gbps interface permits data transfer at 300 Mbps. It can be used anywhere in an organisation that uses SATA, such as in PCs, notebooks, servers and external storage.

3 Gbps SATA enables high-level performance while maintaining desktop cost structures. It also facilitates bandwidth aggregation for multiple devices, enabling maximum throughput. It is fully compatible with 1.5 Gbps SATA and needs no new driver or cable upgrades.

“It is important to note that a 3 Gbps interface does not necessarily mean higher performance. A 3 Gbps performance will be best felt in multi-drive systems. The internal transfer rates will still be below 100 Mbps,” cautions Mishra.

SAS is the new enterprise interface standard targeted at OEMs and system builders. It supersedes parallel SCSI, which for over two decades has been the enterprise interface standard for storage entities such as DAS, entry-level and mid-range network storage systems.

Storage To Fit Applications

Here are a few suggestions for building a cost-effective and high-performance storage infrastructure according to the type of applications in the enterprise.

  • For an OLTP application use high-availability systems with low I/O rates.
  • For a DSS (Decision Support System) application use storage systems with high I/O rates.
  • For information archival use servers with large capacity but low I/O rates.
  • For online backup and mirroring use systems with very high I/O rates, scope for path failover, and load balancing techniques.

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