Is bigger better?

NME asks the region’s top storage vendors if there is really a justification for continuing to add storage in a world of tightening belts.

Tags: Cloud StorageCloud computingEMC CorporationISITNetAppSymantec CorporationUnited Arab Emirates
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Is bigger better? The requirements have tightened up in terms of getting the justification for many projects so people have to justify their investments far more, says Symantec’s Harrison.
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By  Imthishan Giado Published  August 18, 2010

Many avenues which were often ignored are now receiving renewed interest from CIOs, who are considering any and all angles to cut costs. Curiously, according to Mahesh Vaidya, CEO at systems integrator ISIT which focuses on storage, green IT is one of the first concerns to fall by the wayside.

“Earlier, it used to be hard to sell technology like deduplication. Now, it’s becoming a defacto standard; every vendor is having some kind of system. People are encompassing these new technologies much faster than before. In 2007 when we used to talk to IT guys, it was more about green initiatives. In 2009, it’s more about ROI. People are being extremely prudent when it comes to spending IT last year and I think it’s going to continue this year,” he surmises.

“On the hardware side, we’re seeing some of the vendors moving to having unified storage. NAS and SAN are in the same array so you can access things at a file level, other things just at a block level. We’re seeing some of those technologies converging on that side. On the software side, the focus is really on the optimisation – how can you make better use of what you’ve got? That’s really where we’re investing a lot of effort in making sure people can see the big picture, how much they’re actually using,” adds Symantec’s Harrison.

John Rollasson, NetApp’s solutions marketing representative for EMEA, thinks cloud computing, although unheralded at present, is poised to achieve great success in the region.

“It is real and it’s happening now here in our region,” he states. “Smart companies are already taking advantage of cloud services to meet many non-core IT functions. They are also evolving their internal IT infrastructures to become more cloud-like and to focus on service delivery to increase efficiency and flexibility while cutting costs.”

“NetApp sees five key business needs to be considered when building a cloud infrastructure; pay as you go, always on, data security and privacy, self-service and industry delivery and capacity elasticity. These needs in turn can be translated into specific technical requirements; secure multi tenancy, service automation, data mobility, integrated data protection and storage efficiency. The two newcomers to existing IT practices are the ability to ensure that multiple, distinct applications or customers can safely share the same IT infrastructure—secure multi-tenancy—and have the ability to move data without application disruption,” continues Rollason.

Problem, meet solution

When it comes to resolving this problem, one might be forgiven for thinking that vendors have little stake in finding an answer. After all, how would they benefit from selling less storage products to end-users? But as it turns out, they’ve been thinking about the problem for some time now, and have suggestions to offer.

EMC’s Yehia provides three options: “First: before you go ahead and acquire storage platforms, classify your information and define the required service levels. This will help you make a smart and informed decision about what you buy. Second: instead of the traditional way of provisioning storage and storing information, look into the new available technologies that allow you to reduce your storage foot-print and do more with less.

“Third: take a holistic approach and do not make each purchase as a separate project as part of silo infrastructure; build a holistic information management strategy and ensure your purchases are part of the phased execution of this strategy,” he continues.

ISIT’s Vaidya chimes in with a suggestion to focus on optimisation: “We have seen customers reclaim more than 50% of their capacity and we have seen them delay new purchases for more than a year. It’s all about optimising existing infrastructure before you go in and buy more storage. The other thing is about having a multi-vendor storage strategy. If you’re buying from multiple vendors – not too many, maybe two or three, that can also reduce spend by up to 50%.”

Finally, NetApp’s Rollason expands on his earlier comments about cloud storage, suggesting that while it will eventually achieve success, a hybrid model will be the most likely first step.

“For at least the next five years, most CIOs will run a hybrid model consisting of three main parts:

Traditional silos, where an application, a server, and storage are purchased and installed together; internal clouds, which will initially run less critical apps and grow over time; and external clouds, which will also start low and move up,” he states.

The heat is on

It’s clear that options certainly exist for enterprises looking for a more efficient storage paradigm, but it’s also abundantly clear that wasteful ways cannot be allowed to continue. Companies may not change their buying habits overnight, concludes Symantec’s Harrison, but CIOs will only face increasing pressure.

“If I was the CFO, I’d keep asking if we really need this – prove to me that we genuinely have run out of storage and haven’t got any way of reclaiming any spare cache that we have, “he warns.

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