One of today's most profound business revolutions is the use of Internet Protocol (IP) technology to integrate and transport voice, fax, video and data traffic on an IP network. This is underway as network services emerge and 'social networks' form new communications relationships, changing the way information is stored, protected, and shared. Organisations are drowning in emails and documents, and they are now searching for ways to manage this unstructured information and find the value within it.
IP storage combines the benefits of traditional enterprise storage area networks together with the value and flexibility of IP networks. According to Gartner, next year will herald an inflection point in the market where the number of IP connected servers overtakes those of Fibre Channel systems. Analysts are predicting that IP-SAN will be the highest growth area of the storage market place. IDC estimates the IP-SAN market will experience 74 per cent growth in 2007-2008.
By far the biggest benefit of IP-based storage solutions is how they can help to leverage existing infrastructure, people skills and operations. In this way, more companies can achieve the same storage benefits as larger enterprise installations in a far simpler and more affordable way.
Another benefit of moving to a centralised IPbased networked storage solution is lowering acquisition costs through dramatic improvements in utilisation. Typically, a de-centralised environment would have an average utilisation rate of less than 40 per cent, where a shared resource can result in utilisation rates above 80 per cent. This effectively halves the cost.
Having all storage infrastructure in one place also offers operational gains. IP storage solutions available on the market today are more robust platforms than traditional direct attached or distributed storage, which provide very high levels of availability. As well as this, IP storage systems offer intelligence, which assists in the establishment of disaster recovery strategies and simplifying backup.
There are, however, some considerations that need to be weighed up when going down the IP technology route. Firstly, IP-based storage has the lowest total cost of ownership, but it is not the cheapest option. When a system is full, it is relatively inexpensive to add a disk drive to the system but associated management and operational costs are high.
Caution is also needed when selecting IP storage systems because we know things are going to change. In an IP environment you need the flexibility and functionality to change the connection type, scale its capacity as well as computational ability, and the system will need to offer advanced backup, recovery and archiving solutions as well as disaster recovery.
While there seems to be no end to the growth of data, more efficient and effective ways to store, manage and optimise this information are available to keep the ever burgeoning associated information management costs under control. Today, IP storage is an easy, viable option to addressing all of these requirements.