by November 1, 2006 0 comments



This jogging track that I follow everyday has a Neem tree on the way. On this
tree hangs a big honeycomb that must be weighing a few
kilograms-as it seems to be-a huge lump that if it fell on your head would
make a crater into it. And every time I cross it, I wonder how these bees manage
all that honey inside and prevent it from dropping down. And more so when this
is against the infamous gravitational force. Think about it and you will find
yourselves perplexed at the how artistically honey is stored inside those honey
cells and how it is managed for all times-good or bad. And today these
honeycells where you store all your data separately are not the only things that
need to be managed. Instead you have as much as a sea of data to manage. To put
it in other words, as a CIO, you not only have to manage data sitting at
different locations and geographies within and outside office premises but you
also have to keep track of loads of data that has to be stored and managed. Most
organizations place this task of managing storage at a priority. For this, you
must know the ins and outs of your organizational needs and limitations so that
you can get the best for your enterprise.

Now data intensive applications such as streaming content production and
distribution, surveillance video, compliance archive, remote backup data centers
for disaster recovery, etc are all adding to the pile. So its not just capacity
planning that you have to do. You must also set appropriate policies for storage
management and also know what’s the next technology that will cure all your
problems.

This is the maze we will help you find your path through. Last month, in our
story on Strategies for Managing Storage, we got some crucial insights into what
Indian CIOs are planning to deploy in the near future and what is that they have
been doing in order to manage storage better. A few interesting trends that
emerged show an affinity of most decision makers to plan their capacity better,
consolidate and centralize storage and disaster recovery planning. Technologies
that scored low on the wish list of the enterprises include e-mail archival and
retention, data security and managing multiple islands of data. So let’s get
straight into it and find out what’s best for you if want to harness all
storage management resources at hand.

Info lifecycle mgmt
Here is one area that most organizations see as having more potential to become
the cynosure of all eyes in the times to come. As much as 32% of the CIOs,
according to the survey we did last month, plan to implement ILM in their
organizations. Incidentally more and more companies are deploying/planning to
deploy ILM for controlling modular costs.

Unlike what most people think, ILM refers to actively managing data from the
moment it is created till the time it is no longer needed, rather than
archiving/warehousing it indefinitely. And this is precisely the way to cut down
storage costs through better resource allocation. As an effective way to lower
TCO, companies can classify data according to its criticality and put most
important items on the most expensive storage, and less important data on less
expensive storage rather than keeping all information on high-end and more
costly storage. This can be done in multiple tiers, depending on a company’s
data and reliability requirements. And if all enterprises do this, as they
indicate their plans are, storage and thereby IT infrastructure costs can be
brought down to a great extent.

Consolidation and Virtualization
Consolidation along with storage virtualization are two overriding trends as
many companies today are working toward reducing the number as well the kinds of
server hardware and OSs. All this is done in order to reduce complexities in
managing storage. Most organizations are taking planned routes to do this. This
is because it is not only necessary to store data but you also need to ensure
where you place your data on a storage array as that is critical to its
performance characteristics. And it would be bad if you just store your data
somewhere and then one fine day that data black box would turn into a black hole
from where it would be impossible for you to get the data back at the right
time. Enterprises are increasingly becoming aware of this fact and are working
in this direction.

Storage Deployment Trends

But there are a few things that need to be kept in mind while going for data
consolidation. One, it might be adding to your costs as you end up spending for
the bandwidth. Therefore, you must make sure that you keep the data local if
more users are located at one particular branch office rather than jamming
bandwidth for the same and keeping it all available online all the time. Caching
can also be used as a partial solution. For instance, Web caching technology can
be used as a very inexpensive procedure that would work for HTTP based delivery.

Capacity planning
Cut your coat according to your cloth. Old fashion is becoming haute today even
when it comes to storage management concepts. That’s what seems have gained a
lot of potential and most IT departments spend a lot of time on planning and
making storage policies today. This enables you to know how much your machines
are being utilized. Machine utilization percentages are an important measure of
data processing management’s competence. And therefore you have job scheduling
and capacity planning as important components of management. Taken together
these two specialties ensure that the capacity on hand would be just sufficient
to get all jobs done-but this can be done only if the people involved
maintained extremely high equipment utilization rates.

Most companies only use about 25 percent of their current storage capacity,
yet continue to add capacity as a hedge against rising data volumes. As much as
20% of the CIOs we surveyed said that whenever there was some storage crunch,
they just added up additional capacity. But that is not the right thing to do.
You must allocate utilize the right kind of hardware as well as storage capacity
for each process involved in the workflow. This way you need not pile up
unnecessary storage hardware, but you can optimize your existing ones.

Centralization
Having a centralized team managing your storage requirements seems to be one
case where most people seem to have already been there and done that. Not only
that, a good percentage of organizations (23%) still have it on the top on their
to-do list. This is fairly understood considering the proper strategy making and
storage planning that most organizations have begun to do these days. It saves
you a good amount of hassles aggregating all available capacity into centrally
managed pools and allocating proper storage volumes to all workflow processes.

Organizations not only have centralized teams to handle all storage-related
issues, they also are going for readymade solutions for the same that are
already available in the market. This minimizes storage costs, helps you make
good use of unused storage capacity and helps you avoid over-allocation of
capacities. In fact, readymade solutions bring with them another added advantage
of being able to manage all processes from one console. So like they say, follow
the leader.

CDP
A good number of organizations have already begun to use CDP (Continuous
Data Protection) as a means to get the right data at the right time. This is
because most organizations have realized that they do not just need to back up
live data on the network as it is continuously being changed, but they also want
it in their easy reach so that it can be recovered any time. This drastically
improves recovery-point objectives unlike those in the traditional midnight
backups and incremental backups.

With CDP you can save every change to data as it is made. As a result, the
users can retrieve data such as e-mail from any point in time as it was. So in
case, a data file you are working on gets corrupted at some point in time, which
you came to know only later, there would always be a clean copy available from
an instant just before when it got spoilt. Not to forget that being
time-stamped, CDP is closely integrated with ILM as well as DR and BCP. This
makes it all the more important for IT departments to make CDP a necessary
element of the storage management policy. There are two types of CDP products
that are in use: Continuous and near-continuous. With the near-continuous types,
the data isprotected after every few hours or after every hour while continuous
type of data protection enables snapshotting data after seconds.

So be ready to buy a solution that contains both the necessary disk storage
as well as the CDP software. You might incur additional cost on it but that may
be justified if the higher data availability saves you loss of revenue.

Storage resource mgmt
Storage Resource Management or SRM, as it is fondly remembered, is catching up
with every organization-big or small. Even then, there are various myths
associated with it. While most people think it is something to do with tracking,
monitoring or backing up data, SRM is a function of all storage information and
management features. That is, it comprises all the processes and concepts that
are necessary to manage all data generated in an organization from the time the
data is generated to the time it is finally archived or deleted permanently.

Different IT managers use SRM to be able to do many things. For instance,
some want their SRM package to manage their storage resources and others favor
using it strictly for information gathering and reporting. In the later case,
the actual management is done with other storage management tools. Though not
many people have SRM implementations operating in their enterprise environments
right now, many are planning to do so in the times to come.

This not only shows its rising popularity, but also the need of the hour to
deploy solutions that will do it all for you-logical and systematic storage,
tracking and monitoring workflow and resource allocation. As most enterprises
use heterogeneous environments and different solutions for various tasks, you
should go for an SRM package that can make use of multiple platforms and OSs.

Harish Shetty, Vice President, IT, HDFC
Bank

In your opinion, have Indian enterprises started taking storage mgmt
seriously? Is there proper planning involved as far as managing storage is
concerned?

Storage is procured based on users’ business requirements. These
requirements include performance, speed of data
retrieval, volume of data, impact of failure of storage devices, archival
of data for compliances or business needs, MIS needs, etc.

How does your organization go about managing data and make storage
related decisions?

For us, storage needs are evaluated, requirements consolidated and
procurement decisions made by a centralized team. We have a set about 25
questions that need to be answered by individual departments to gather
data and analyze their requirements. These question are related to the
need for storage, response time required, amount of data which will be
stored, type of application whether LTP/DSS/ mail, etc, redundancy
required, backup, DR/ BCP and so on. We have implemented tiered storage
strategy where we have different types of storage solutions with varying
cost or performance based on users’ needs.

Do you foresee a trend in the way things are moving in the storage
management arena? If yes, which technologies do you think are to be
watched out for?

Here they are: Continuous Data Protection, Information Lifecycle
Management, Storage virtualization and E-mail archival

IP SAN & FC SAN
Sans fiber channel-that’s what most organizations today seem to be doing to
save on cost, time and deployment hassles.

IP SANs are more popular amongst decision makers and IT managers to be
deployed considering that they have to budget their decisions and still be able
to get more functionality out of what they buy. IP SAN solutions provide
significant savings over traditional FC SANs through lower costs
of acquisition, lower costs of administration, and simplified deployment.

Not only that, they also eliminate the interoperability problems. So now you
can install an IP-based SAN for a fraction of the cost of a similar FC solution.
Disk-disk backup, near-line archive, and remote DR sites are some key
applications where the native iSCSI storage arrays are
being considered and applied. In these cases, IP SAN is used as auxillary
storage to the more expensive FC SAN.

Content & doc mgmt
Enterprises generate huge amounts of data daily, which calls for an ever-rising
demand to manage it. There are a lot of documents, e-mail and other types of
content that are taking birth daily in the enterprise environment and this
population explosion also needs to be controlled before it becomes
unmanageable.

Output volumes are also increasing due to the use of technologies such as the
ERP systems, the Internet and intranet.

There are readymade content and document management solutions available that
can be used. Note that document management is not only to do with scanners, MFDs,
filing systems, data centers, and so on. Instead, it comprises issues such as
document conversion, storage, integrity and security, deployment and maintenance
as well as legal issues.

Organizations have begun to set up content management policies, and CMS and
DMS (content and document management solutions) are already being used for the
purpose.

An effective document management process should aim to reduce IP
(Intellectual Property) access and retrieval times; increase use and value of
IP; increase knowledge about accessing files; support knowledge sharing; reduce
the time and energy spent; reduce work and document duplication; improve
document security; abide by the legal rules and regulations; ensure better space
utilization; improve quality; reduce distortion; and enhance information flow.
Also it should help avoid data duplication.

All this is incomplete unless such a system aids in the reduction of the
various costs involved. So unless you ensure that your enterprise is adopting
and exploiting the correct document management systems, you cannot address the
issue of huge expenditures that you have been incurring over documentation.

DR and BCP
This is one area that seems to have a lot of juice. More than 50% of the
organizations, we surveyed, do DR and BCP and about 30% say that they have this
to be implemented in the near future. Organizations, who don’t have
full-fledged teams to do disaster management for them, are
increasingly going for partnerships with others. There are independent
organizations that would work in close integration (onsite or offsite) with your
organization and come up with strategies for disaster recovery and business
continuity planning.

The need of the hour is that the storage management teams work in close
correlation with the information security groups. If this can be ensured, the
utopian dream of having bulletproof storage can soon be a reality.

Data encryption, for instance, could be one step in this direction. And thank
your stars that at least the backup solution providers have begun to act this
way by providing solutions that encrypt data while backing it up.

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