Minding the store

Enterprises in the Middle East have several choices of vendors, solutions and architectures for storage virtualisation projects. However, the success of such projects may eventually depend on the organisation itself.

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By  Sathya Ashok Published  May 17, 2008

The best way to plan for and tackle the changes that any form of storage virtualisation can bring is to start early and to have the essential pre-requisites in place.

Starting right

"Enterprises are candidates to shift to storage virtualisation if they are information intensive, want increased business flexibility, have issues of storage resource allocation, want to improve scalability, have cooling issues, want to lower power consumption and have a heterogeneous environment. Before shifting to a virtualised environment, firms should consider how to enable high availability, increase their security and enhance efficient disaster recovery," says Said Akar, pre-sales manager for the Middle East at EMC.

Certain situations will also warrant storage virtualisation such as company acquisitions that mean storage space is running out, legacy file systems that make back-ups time-consuming and user-disruptive and audits that reveal huge amounts of inactive stored data, as Sherry points out.

The most cost effective decision that truly embraces the concept of virtualisation would probably be one that incorporates a tiered approach to storage.

"The most important prerequisite is to understand what business problems will be solved through storage virtualisation. Virtualisation is a key technology and companies can realise multiple benefits through its implementation but unless the decision is driven by a strong business case, there is a danger of deploying technology just for technology's sake," says Ward.

"Hire an external company to do an assessment of your storage landscape. Customers often have internal storage and what we have seen is that as they grow they get more storage islands and different technologies. Therefore it is very difficult for customers to judge what storage is sitting where and how important the data is. A consultant's report should give the right insight with which organisations can accordingly plan the right investment in a storage virtualisation platform," states Dell's Kuepers.

As soon as an assessment is conducted and an end-result has been provided on what data is sitting where, the next step would be to come up with a storage strategy.

According to Kuepers, enterprises should use this as the basic format for storage virtualisation while also deciding on what they want to achieve with the project - more growth, a level of consolidation or something akin to disaster recovery.

With this, companies can talk to vendors, seek advice and make the right decision for the firm.

"Appoint a storage manager and plan the virtualisation project. Make a storage survey of all existing storage infrastructure (arrays, switches, networks, capacities, tools) and determine the service levels that the virtualised storage has to deliver to the application and end-users alike. Also, choose an all encompassing storage management tool, include storage management reports for error detection and look at how your virtualised storage infrastructure can enhance other IT processes (back-up, disaster recovery, consolidation, compliance)," states Stefan Wolf, SWD business development manager at HP Middle East.

The false steps

While the process might seem deceptively simple, many an enterprise makes mistakes along the way to storage virtualisation. Often, these mistakes can lead to huge project modifications which can cause undue delays and budget over-runs.

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