Plumping up on storage

Plumping up on storage

As a person’s waistline expands, containing the bulge becomes a challenge. Likewise, as demand for storage continues to grow, containing the ever-increasing data girth is becoming a balancing act for organisations.

The growth in storage requirements coupled with the demand to meet increased government regulation — to keep data on file for longer — is forcing companies to find cost-effective ways to contain the growing mass of data.

Companies are required to store more data — email is the fastest growing format — with fewer people, according to Meta Group analyst, Kevin McIsaac.

The answer? The best approach to deal with the reams of data is to mix and match the network storage approach with removable storage, which is still an attractive option as removable devices are able to store hundreds of megabytes or even gigabytes of data. On the desktop side, devices range from USB, DVD burners and flash media readers to tape drives and automated tape on the data centre front.

And as companies move towards consolidation, removable technologies continue to coexist with its network counterparts. Adding removable technology into the mix.

Removable technology is useful for making backup copies of important information, transporting data between computers, storing software and information that the user doesn’t constantly access; copying information to give to somebody else, and securing information that you don’t want anybody else to access.

But it wasn’t about choosing one technology over the other, McIsaac said.

“At the end of the day, what we advise customers to do is get out of the business of being in religious wars of tape versus disk versus SAN versus IP versus Fibre Channel. Put the technical definitions aside.”

Product marketing manager at Network Storage Solutions, Ian Selway, said mixing and matching removable storage with network storage was the way to go. While larger organisations tended to beef up on an overall network storage approach, SMBs opted for heaps more removable technology because of the lower cost and greater mobility aspect.

On the data protection front, Quantum’s product marketing manager for Asia-Pacific, Mike Sparkes, agreed that a combination of disk and tape was the best option for backup and disaster recovery.

He said resellers could take advantage of the consolidation trend underway in the market over the last few years.

“It’s still possible to show good return on investment for expenditure in IT if you are consolidating existing systems or consolidating existing islands of storage,” Sparkes said.

Lucrative market

And while tape remains a lucrative market, the company has rolled out a disk-based system that emulates a tape library.

“It makes it very easy for people to install and use, and makes it easy for us to get very high-performance,” he said.

The technology was ideal for medium-sized businesses that already had an existing tape library, Sparkes said. The reason to move to a disk-based backup was to have improved speed, better access to data, and increased reliability.

“They can drop in the DX30 or DX100 and their environment is already familiar with the tape library so it doesn’t see any difference,” he said. “They don’t have to change procedures or retrain their people or buy different software. You can do this in half-an-hour; you don’t need weeks of implementation.”

“Even though tape is a very reliable medium, it’s almost self-evident that tape is a physical thing, it is a little bit fragile, it requires being moved around.”

But the traditional tape front remained a large part of the business and was still a player for archiving, he said.

The company was working to build larger capacity tape drives and tape cartridges. Ninety per cent of SMBs and the enterprise used tape cartridges, he said.

The tape shelf life is also longer than disk — guaranteed for 30 years — whereas the disk is only valid as long as it keeps spinning and is air-conditioned.

“At the moment there are two games: the DLT model, which is Quantum-based, and the LTO model [which is a result of a consortium of other players]. Over the last several years they’ve been leapfrogging in both performance and capacity. It’s been a very competitive market.”

The ILM diet

Offering the whole gamut of product, ranging from online disk to removable tape products, StorageTek is pitching the information lifecycle management (ILM) mantra.

ILM maintains that not all information is created equal and, therefore, needs to be managed and categorised during its entire lifespan.

“You can move data up and down a hierarchy of storage depending on how long you want to keep it, whether it’s something that needs to be accessed quickly or whether it’s archival or whether it’s backup,” StorageTek A/NZ marketing manager Joan Tunstall said.

Depending on the company requirements, she said StorageTek helped companies deploy higher-cost disk technology, and then move down from disk to different levels of storage including ATA-based disk storage and automated tape.

“What you should be doing is balancing your costs and capacity requirements,” she said. And this is where resellers could help assess the situation, offering solutions across the entire range, she said.

“What you’re tailoring is the right solution that suits the customer and their particular storage requirements,” Tunstall said. “You may understand what’s placed where in the hierarchy.”

Storage business manager for Sun, Dan Kieran, said the ILM strategy was hard to beat as it offered tiers of storage (including the platform, a modular approach, serial ATA and the tape infrastructure).

Wide array of products

Depending on needs and policies, he said resellers could pick and choose which tier to sell to customers.

The company recently launched the StorEdge 3511, a fibre channel array that it claims is designed to provide low cost, high capacity near-line or secondary storage for data reference and data archival applications.

The technology was aimed at ILM computing environments that required large, affordable storage capacity, Kieran said.

Quantum’s Sparkes said ILM boiled down to putting a value on each individual piece of data, and then storing it on an appropriate piece of equipment.

“You have a wide array of products to manage the data through its lifecycle ... The benefit of this approach to the end-user is overall he can manage his storage costs better because he doesn’t need to install high performance storage requirements for everything he has go,” he said.

Pitching the ILM strategy, Quantum works in conjunction with its partners to provide an end-to-end solution. Resellers can offer consultancy services and data analysis.

“Resellers can help define for an end-user an analysis of their data,” Sparkes said. “The analysis might end up with a bunch of recommendations on where and how to store their data for different purposes.”

Resellers can offer high performance backup solutions as well as long-term storage.

Selway said the trend towards tiered storage architecture — which coexists with disk and tape — was driving the ILM movement.

“A lot of vendors out there not typically associated with removable storage now see it as a part of the ILM pitch,” he said.

On the consumer side, the most interesting piece of removable technology to start picking up steam was the removable hard drive, Selway said.

This was on its way once the Media Centre PC landed in Australia.

And while all storage vendors were pitching the ILM mantra, Meta Group’s McIsaac said the strategy fitted in nicely with a mix and match approach, and gave resellers the ability to add value.

“Resellers need to sit down with a customer and talk about the customer’s data, what’s important about it, and then drill down and show them how the understanding of the application of the data leads them into a discussion on tiered storage,” McIsaac said

And as organisations discussed the data, climbed up the food chain and moved towards SANs, tape was still a part of the mechanism, Tunstall said.

SANs provide a means to consolidate the access from many servers into one pool of storage.

Quantum’s Sparkes agreed and said SAN technology and tape still had a relationship.

“The large tape library right from the beginning was a driver of the installation of SANs even before the technology existed to share the data on disk subsystems,” he said. “First thing people could see the value of sharing was a large tape library — and we’re still seeing a lot of opportunity there.”

Meta Group’s McIsaac said with the advent of SANs — and the replication technology it provides — there was a belief that users did not need to backup on tape anymore.

“Frankly, this is not true,” he said. “You do. One of the reasons why you do is using the replication approach is fabulous, but you might only have one or two points in time captured.”

Meanwhile, on the software front, Veritas’ Bruce Lakin said the trick was to offer a heterogeneous environment.

“And whether it’s a fixed or removable/network or direct connect, the company provides the tools and technology to make sure customers utilise their storage assets,” he said.

Veritas is also pitching the concept of virtualisation — which lets users logically allocate storage requirements without regard for the physical aspect of the storage environment, along with ILM, which gives customers the capability to search, retrieve and extract data.

“In our world, we’re looking for resellers to provide the full storage solutions; a storage management mix,” Lakin said.

As storage spending picked up, and the emphasis on management became more real, he said the company was seeing renewed investment in performance measurement and automation.

“We’re now moving to a phase, where we’re seeing storage managed as a utility: where dynamically, if the user needs an increase in storage, it’s as easy as turning on the tap,” Lakin said.

Tape and beyond

While tape is still a hot sale item for resellers, optical disk technology had lost ground in the data centre, StorageTek’s Tunstall said.

The optical realm had been popular with organisations wanting a write once/read many option but the technology of different tape media provided that same capability.

Anybody looking to contain large volumes of data, should look to tape, Tunstall said.

The standards and access of optical technologies were much slower, she said.

“The robotics on the optical are much slower so in fact they are not as good for high volume,” Tunstall said.

Solid state storage (including flash cards) is also cost prohibitive for many organisations,.

“It’s per megabyte, and so it’s much more expensive than other forms of storage,” she said. “So it’s good for people that need really fast access for a specific piece of data, but not so good for those that have a large quantity of data.”

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