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Issue of June 2006 

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Infrastructure Strategies '06

Storage gets networked

Indian CIOs have to deal with massive data stores. Chirasrota Jena reports.

It is a tough job for the IT heads of different enterprises to identify and purchase the right storage solutions available in the market. With the growth of Indian banking, financial, telco and ITeS sectors, the market for storage has grown exponentially. The real value addition to the corporation is the management of a storage pool, along with automated backup and recovery, and quality of service. Storage vendors are targeting sectors like telecommunications, financial services, manufacturing and ultimately the government.

According to the IS 2006 survey, network storage comes fourth as far as the top IT spending areas of Indian enterprises are concerned. Only 23 percent of the respondents have mentioned storage as their priority area of IT investment.

Managing Storage Effectively

As the volume and criticality of corporate data grows exponentially, companies are seeking storage solutions that maximise their capacity, scalability and flexibility while lowering costs. To meet the growing information needs of the business, CIOs must find ways to make more data available to more users while ensuring that it is properly protected.

61 percent of the respondents already have DAS boxes and 20 percent would like to invest in the year 2006-07. NAS and SAN have 39 percent and 33 percent presence respectively. The BFSI segment has seen maximum penetration of DAS (73 percent)

There are many choices, ranging from traditional direct-attached storage (DAS), which still commands an impressive market lead, to more complex and expensive network attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) products. Network storage devices are gaining popularity among enterprises because they meet a growing need for anywhere, any time access to data. As per the survey, 61 percent of the respondents already have DAS boxes and 20 percent would like to invest in the year 2006-07. NAS and SAN have 39 percent and 33 percent presence respectively. The BFSI segment has seen maximum penetration of 73 percent in DAS as per the survey. Most of the respondents have expressed their intent to invest in network storage devices.

Organisations are now consolidating and managing the ever-increasing amount of enterprise data through SANs. Alagu Balaraman, Senior VP, IT and Corporate Development, Godrej Industries explains, “There are impressive technical and business advantages in consolidating storage with SAN. A SAN infrastructure enables any connectivity between different servers and storage systems. This allows more efficient use of storage capacity by consolidating widely distributed or underutilised disk space onto centralised storage arrays, each of which is accessible by all servers across the SAN.”

Flextronics Software Systems has made a significant portion of its IT investment in storage last year. It has deployed two SAN boxes in its Gurgaon office and one in Bangalore. Though Biocon has implemented the storage devices five years back, it has recently upgraded its SAN boxes.

While the initial cost of a SAN solution may be higher than that of DAS, the inherent flexibility and scalability of a SAN, together with its reduced management complexity and cost deliver long-term benefits. SAN can be tailored cost-effectively to a company’s needs. When additional capacity is required, it can be expanded without downtime.

NAS is designed to separate storage resources from network and application servers in order to simplify storage management and improve the reliability, performance and efficiency of the network, thus increasing the overall productivity of the organisation.

IP SAN to be the Buzzword

To address the critical issues pertaining to storage management most companies are turning to network storage technologies from SAN to NAS to IP SAN solutions. IP SANs that do not use Fibre Channel (FC) but Internet Protocol are going to be the buzzword across all the verticals. They are looking to these technologies to help reduce the burden on the server network created by the tremendous increase in data volumes, while facilitating faster and more reliable access to data. The IP SAN infrastructure leverages the flexibility and ubiquity of IP network and Ethernet technology to deliver all the consolidation, scalability and flexibility benefits of a SAN, at a cost lower than Fibre Channel. The high cost of FC technology and its need for specialised IT knowledge and skills have generally limited its use to mission-critical applications for large enterprises.

Companies are looking for solutions that enable them to expand as their storage requirements grow without affecting the existing systems or application processes. At the same time, companies are looking to centralise the management of their storage network and reduce the overall cost of managing their storage resources. But IP SAN technology has not penetrated much among the Indian enterprises. It might be because of lack of knowledge in CIOs. Vendors should create awareness as well as providing appropriate training. Radhakrishnan Menon, Group Head, Systems, Biocon says, “Till now we have not assessed the technology but as IP SAN has begun to mark its presence in the mainstream we will definitely think about it.” IP SAN is the most cost-effective way to add servers or workstations to SAN, especially lower-end servers and workstations where FC is not economically feasible.


“We are planning to deploy a remote Dr Tool”

Alagu Balaraman
Senior VP, IT and Corporate Development
Godrej Industries
We are spending 20 to 25 percent of our IT investment on the maintenance and procurement of our storage devices. We have basic disaster recovery tools but we are planning to deploy a remote disaster recovery tool very soon. We are in the process of designing the entire solution.

The increased requirement to keep data readily accessible and protected for rapid restoration to ensure business continuance and disaster recovery is a major problem for the enterprises. The need to make data accessible to users, systems and applications across the organisation, enabling greater collaboration and new data-driven capabilities also add fuel to the fire. These are the burning challenges before Indian CIOs.

“LTO technology is powerful”

Rajeev Seoni
Head IT and Assistant VP
Flextronics Software Systems
LTO technology is the super tape technology of choice because it delivers a powerful, scaleable, adaptable open tape format. It also delivers compatible products from multiple technology providers offering high capacity, performance and reliability along with faster-paced innovation, lower prices and true multi-vendor compatibility.

“We will invest 25% in storage”

Radhakrishnan Menon
Head, IT, Biocon

Storage systems are complex and highly sophisticated. As of now, skill sets available in the local market are low, which leads to issues emerging during the initial implementation of storage solutions. We are planning to invest about 25 percent of our total IT investment in procurement of different storage devices.

“IP SAN has many advantages”

Arup Choudhury
General Manager, IT
Eveready Industries
The lower cost of IP SAN coupled with the ROI and its ability to centralise the storage architecture has helped companies like us to shift from fibre channel to IP. It is also easy to deploy and manage by leveraging industry standard IP technology, standards and protocols. It requires only limited staff with no specialised skill sets.

Low Penetration of Storage Virtualisation

Storage virtualisation, a disruptive storage technology much-debated currently, addresses the need for more flexible storage infrastructure that adapts to change more easily than its counterparts. Storage virtualisation software provides volume virtualisation and other storage services such as data migration and copying. Storage virtualisation is yet to pick up in India. Most Indian enterprises are either not using it or are planning to use it at a later stage. As per the survey, 19 percent of the enterprises have storage virtualisation solutions and only 11 percent would like to invest in the coming year.

Balaraman says, “Storage virtualisation is an interesting area which we are seriously looking at. Though we have not deployed any kind of storage virtualisation tool, we are planning to implement it in the coming year.”

51 percent of the enterprises are using e-mail archiving solutions and only 15 percent are planning to invest as per the survey. The deployed centralised SAN boxes at the Godrej office help the organisation to maintain and manage all the internal as well external e-mail. There is also very low penetration of ILM among Indian enterprises. It may be due to lack of awareness of the CIOs or no vendor initiatives. ILM is a logical response for applications where document control and compliance are required. However, if your organisation also requires a cost-optimised storage solution, you will need to decide which tiered storage infrastructure is appropriate.

Survey Hightlights
  • 49 percent of respondents are planning to invest in storage in 2006-07.
  • Approximately 60 percent of the enterprises have already invested in Direct-Attached Storage (DAS).
  • Approximately 20 percent of the enterprises are planning to invest in DAS and Network Attached Storage (NAS).
  • Tape drive and disk-to-disk are the two most preferred secondary storage devices.
  • 76 percent of the enterprises have invested in tape drives and 16 percent would like to invest in the coming year.
  • Approximately 73 percent of BFSI units have DAS in their organisation and 37 percent would like to reinvest.
  • 42 percent of the Indian enterprises have disaster recovery tools and 20 percent would like to invest in the coming year.

Backup and Recovery Need Attention

According to the IS survey, disk-to-disk and tape drive are the most preferred backup solutions. Though other forms of backup devices like tape libraries and optical drives are used by enterprises, their penetration is very low. 76 percent of the companies are using tape drives to backup their entire data. But for the coming year very few are planning to invest in backup devices. Only 16 percent of the respondents are planning to invest in tape drives and 7 percent have expressed their intention to invest in disk-to-disk backup devices.

Says Rajeev Seoni, Head IT and Senior VP, Flextronics Software Systems, “We are still using a tape drive for our backup devices as it is cost-effective and easy to maintain. But at the same time we are seriously considering investing in disk-to-disk devices in the next one year.”

Choudhury reveals, “We are using a disk-to-disk storage backup device as it delivers some significant time and cost benefits over tape-based solutions for storage, backup and restore and compliance applications.”

SAN provides the infrastructure to implement advanced data protection features like snapshot and mirroring/replication to enhance backup and recovery and Disaster Recovery features critical to uptime and business success. 42 percent of the respondents have already invested in disaster recovery tools but only 20 percent have plans to invest in the coming year. Balaraman explains, “We have basic disaster recovery tools but we are planning to deploy a remote disaster recovery tool very soon. We are in the process of designing the entire solution.”

Companies like Biocon and Flextronics are using the LTO device to manage their disasters.

Future Demand

To meet the demands of today’s dynamic marketplace, organisations need reliable storage systems that can effectively manage and protect critical business information. A difficult challenge for companies today is that of cost-effectively managing storage capacity. They must balance their need to keep pace with growing storage requirements with their need to preserve their budget. A modular design provides the ideal solution, enabling companies to start small and add capacity, as required, quickly and inexpensively.

Companies in the telecom sector are witnessing a huge spurt in subscriber base and hence are expanding their storage infrastructure rapidly. BFSI is another vertical not to be ignored by the storage players

There is very low demand for storage devices in the coming year as per the survey report. Vendors have to target particular verticals for different kinds of storage devices. Companies in the telecom sector are witnessing a huge spurt in subscriber base and hence are expanding their storage infrastructure rapidly. BFSI is another vertical not to be ignored by the storage players. Companies like Godrej, Flextronics and Eveready have already made larger investments in the last year as far as storage is concerned. They will only invest in certain specific areas like disaster recovery tools and backup devices. But still the vendors have to take steps to create awareness about the latest developments in the storage market.

Most CIOs are looking at factors like market position, support, upgradeability and scalability from the vendors while taking a decision to deploy any devices related to storage. Balaraman opines, “The biggest problem faced by Indian enterprises is that of interoperability or rather the lack of it. The storage vendors should focus on this issue. They should provide all-round support to their customers.”

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