Storage matters

UAE-based systems integrator Pro Technology says region's end-users have yet to implement storage sufficient to meet modern business demands

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By  Julian Pletts Published  August 17, 2009

UAE-based systems integrator Pro Technology has been working across the Middle East networking region for some time now but until recently the solutions provider says end-users have yet to implement storage sufficient to meet modern business demands.

What are the challenges that CIOs face when it comes to storage in the Middle East in the midst of the current climate?

The current economic climate has introduced a great deal of uncertainty into the business cycle of most companies. One of the biggest challenges is restricted or reduced IT budgets. Forecasts for the slowdown vary widely in terms of the length and the effect the downturn is going to have on IT budgets, but 2009 to 2010 budgets are uncertain for the moment.

Thus, organisations are reluctant to spend more money than is necessary, which leads to limited or delayed acquisition of IT equipment which otherwise might have been a routine process.  However, owners or the management of these organisations will still expect their IT systems and infrastructure to serve their business needs without any problems or degradation in performance, which is a big challenge for the IT managers and CIOs in the business.

Typically how much unutilised storage do you feel there is in the Middle East enterprise space?

During the past periods of economic growth, organisations often followed the strategy of incrementally adding storage which is easily absorbed by the budget. Most of the time, this was done without paying enough attention to the real need or assessing the current utilisation in the existing storage infrastructure. As a result, many operations today operate at only 30% to 40% utilisation of their overall storage capacity.

And according to technology stats from analysts Infopro, many organisations operate at an average of only 35% of storage utilisation. So it is clear that there is room for improved use of existing storage which will lead to a reduction in the need to continuously purchase more capacity.

In what way are CIOs in the Middle East not making the most of this storage space? What are the common misapprehensions and mistakes that are made when it comes to the application of storage in enterprises?

The most common practice, which is not necessarily a misapprehension, is that of neglect. Most organisations are tempted to take a quick fix or the easy way out to storage management problems. Though the incremental cost of adding storage is relatively small and facilitates faster project roll-out, it also leads to underutilised storage. This over provisioning is a common practice and is a consequence of neglect. Idle capacity consumes power, increases cooling costs, and consumes floor space which could have been utilised for something else.

What role do systems integrators need to take in curing this problem?

System integrators need to adopt best practices and benchmarking as a place to start and they need to gain a full sight of the current usage, rather than limited snapshots.

In order to meet the increasing demands of the current business climate, IT-decision makers within organisations must take several steps to optimise existing assets and find alternative ways of solving storage management problems.

Symantec provides end-users with a powerful tool which helps customers to reduce storage capital costs by increasing storage utilisation and controlling demand by mapping storage consumption to business applications. By gaining this critical insight, CommandCentral Storage  (CCS) will allow effective cost containment while providing the best storage management solution to companies in the Middle East as well as providing them with a clear path to operational efficiency.

How much investment does CommandCentral Storage  require from the end-user?

That is not an easy question to answer because the cost may vary from case-to-case and it is very much related to the storage capacity, the system complexity and the applications used on site. But we know for sure that the investment required to go in this direction will be much less when compared to the investment that is required in adding more storage and will even show the end-user more value over time. One more important result of investing in it is that the performance of the system will be also optimised leading to faster and better network productivity.

What other steps can systems managers take to optimise existing storage in their legacy IT environments?

There are a couple of best practices that IT managers can adopt to streamline their existing storage systems. Storage resource management (SRM) enables IT managers to navigate the storage environment and identify old or non-critical data that can be moved to less expensive storage. These tools can also then be used to predict future capacity requirements.

Data deduplication has gained wide acceptance as a tool to streamline the backup process. It works by eliminating duplicate data, a good example of this is when a Microsoft Office PowerPoint presentation is stored on different file servers multiple times, deduplication ensures that only one copy is stored, no matter how many full or incremental backups may occur. And the last best practice is data archiving. Emails are the biggest unstructured information pain point in today's network and a top target for data reduction via archiving.

The Radicati Group estimates that the volume of email will increase by 30% by the year 2010. Archiving technology will act as an online archive for older items that are moved from primary application storage according to defined policies that are set by the company. It also leverages optimised single instance storage and compression technologies to further reduce the data point.

Why do you think these steps, or similar ones, have not been taken before now? Do you think there is a lack of understanding in the Middle East when it comes to optimising storage?

In simple terms these steps haven't been required until now. Both the customers and the computer vendors or system integrators, were going the easy way of adding more resources to address the growing needs of businesses. Current economic conditions have not been experienced in modern times so new questions are being asked of IT and technology. Practically all businesses are now re-considering their current practice and the Middle East is no different. With time, there will be a growing understanding as businesses face new challenges but CommandCentral Storage is the tool to help bring greater clarity.

Is CCS not merely a stop gap that puts the problem off for another day? Should an investment in CCS be accompanied by a further investment in storage?

CSS brings instant rewards and re-aligns current systems to enable storage needs to be met now and in the future so by no means is it a stop-gap. As a result, introducing CSS should not necessarily be met with a further investment, but rather it answers accurately the very question of whether a further investment is required or not.

What other trends do you feel will dominate the storage market in the Middle East region over the rest of the year and into the next? 

Trends that we will see include: Storage resource management, the just-in-time storage capacity planning model for upwards of 18 months, data growth - unstructured and continuing to grow exponentially upwards of 100% year-on-year and when it comes to the disk there will be more disk, more tiers and management of hierarchical storage management will increase in complexity determining what to bin and what to keep.

Also, virtual tape libraries will remain popular as an alternative to tape. Furthermore, tape will do the job that it was designed to do with visibility of the data stored in the data centre and market position-wise it is likely virtualisation will be used to improve efficiencies.

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