The file factor

F5 Networks is aiming to boost uptake of its ARX file virtualisation devices as customers increasingly look to simplify data management and reduce storage costs. Mark Govan, EMEA business development consultant for ARX solutions at F5, outlines the company’s proposition for the Middle East market.

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The file factor Govan: ARX solutions help customers address the source of their file storage issues.
By  Andrew Seymour Published  July 16, 2010

ACN: What are the main challenges when it comes to data growth among enterprise organisations at present?

Mark Govan: Growth rates in data are a challenge for just about every customer. It leads to ongoing capital expenditure in storage hardware and even though the unit price of storage falls, the cost of management still rises. As well as this, people tend to forget that for every GB created, an additional GB has to be backed up and protected for business continuity and compliance purposes.

ACN: So what sort of data growth are customers generally seeing? Are we talking about single-digit percentages or a much higher figure?

Mark Govan: The customers that we engage with typically have growth rates in excess of 65% CAGR - some well over 100% - in their file environments. Of this data, 80% has not been accessed or modified in the previous 90 days and a significant percentage of the overall storage pool may be non-business critical data such as .mp3, .pst or .vob. The challenge related to the inactive and non-business critical data is that it is being allocated key storage resources and tying up back-up capacity and disaster recovery resources whilst not being critical to the business.

ACN: What solutions does F5 have to these issues, and how do they actually work?

Mark Govan: F5 ARX, our unique stub-less tiering functionality, enables file data to be split in to separately manageable pools of data. For example, 20% of the data will be automatically allocated to critical file storage (tier 1), while 80% will be automatically allocated to less critical storage or optimised file storage such as de-duplicated file servers (tier 2). The real benefit for customers is that this is totally transparent and you can apply different back-up policies to each pool of storage. For most customers, this means applying their usual back-up policies to tier 1 but only backing up tier 2 on a monthly basis (the tiering operation is run on a schedule). This gives dramatic cost savings and operational efficiencies, reducing back-up times by up to 90%.

ACN: Does it allow non-disruptive migration of data between file servers? This would probably be a feature many organisations would consider a priority…

Mark Govan: Yes, the solution also enables non-disruptive migration of data between file servers, which makes for seamless movement of data and high speed consolidation or migration capabilities. There is a typical reduction in migration times of 50%-plus. This integrated dynamic capacity balancing drives up the utilisation of existing file servers and extends the life of storage assets in a client environment, offsetting capital expenditure, thus enabling businesses to manage their costs and operate more efficiently.

ACN: What sort of demand do you see in the Middle East?

Mark Govan: The adoption of our technology is primarily driven by the growth of file storage and we have seen each market in EMEA emerge at a different rate and with specific market needs. We are seeing significant interest from a number of major organisations across the region, which is validating the market for ARX. A good example of the increasing maturity of the market is our partnership with NetApp with whom we are an Advantage Alliance Partner. We are collaborating with NetApp to provide customers with unified application and data delivery solutions to enable more agile and dynamic data centres.

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