In an era where intelligent management and storage data have become one of the most strategic elements of the IT infrastructure, global enterprises have found that they not only need a data management infrastructure that can span their entire operation, they also need an infrastructure that can be managed from any location at any time. The trend is giving rise to the concept of global storage networking.
Global storage networking, like on-demand computing, utility computing and grid computing, all point to the same vision: a virtual pool of data center resources dynamically responsive to user demands.
John Joseph, vice president of marketing at EqualLogic, says that many industry analysts and companies are working toward defining and developing this new data center architecture, which has three components: servers, network infrastructure and storage.
Joseph and other industry experts are convinced that the trend toward consolidation and virtualization is already in full swing, driven by a real business requirement for efficiency and responsiveness.
Can Global Data Management Be Done Painlessly?
Can global data management be achieved without building a new infrastructure? For all the hype about the storage industry making global data management a reality, IT professionals wonder if the goal can be accomplished without building a whole new infrastructure.
John Lallier, vice president of technology at FalconStor, says the goal should not be to build a new infrastructure, but to extend and enhance the existing infrastructure. "Budget constraints are forcing companies to better utilize what they have, and not simply replace the infrastructure they have in place because a new technology has been introduced," he says.
Others say the storage industry hasn't adequately demonstrated how global data management can be accomplished without purchasing more storage products and services.
"The underlying reality is that while, officially, the storage industry is striving to show the customer 'how big the ocean is' and what storage utopia might look like, vendors will continue to require customers to buy this or add that product to their infrastructure," says Eran Farajun, executive vice president at Asigra. "This is what keeps the storage industry working, evolving and improving itself."
Farajun believes that very few global enterprises have a storage infrastructure that runs itself and is perfectly architected. He says that customers who want to achieve global data management must take on some of the responsibility for improving their own infrastructure.
Farajun says many enterprises are working on this, but that it is very difficult and expensive to achieve. He also says that he believes that most storage customers who are attempting to achieve this goal are doing it through a "piecemeal" approach — starting with easier projects and moving toward harder ones. An example of an easier project, says Farajun, would be to improve data restore times at remote sites. This would be achieved through various technologies such as replacing tape backup with disk-based backup.
Joseph, however, thinks that at a networking level, the infrastructure is in place for high-performance local and wide area networking, as IP has become more robust and more secure. That said, he still sees a need for more bandwidth, and for bandwidth pricing to continue to fall. "In the absence of this reduction in network costs and improvement in performance, customers will duplicate heavily used reference data locally, trading storage costs vs. network costs," he says.
Joseph says more work needs to be done to manage heterogeneous storage environments as one resource. Also, he says, even though the acceptance of IP as the common connectivity for centralized storage is rapidly growing, it still has not been totally accepted. "The rise of iSCSI in the enterprise is a direct result of the need for a common communications infrastructure that can span long distances and allow the secure flow of information where and when it is needed," he says.
Lallier thinks the goal of global storage networking is reachable, but only by the most "enlightened" businesses.
"Businesses that use storage solutions, provide data protection services across heavily used applications and any protocol are the businesses closest to achieving a true global storage network," says Lallier. A storage solution that allows the flexibility to leverage and incorporate existing investments in hardware and software, while accelerating backup and recovery, gives businesses the centralized management needed for global storage networking, he says.
Storage Becoming More Platform Than Device
With the astronomical growth in data storage needs, global enterprises are constantly struggling with the task of managing vast — and growing — amounts of data. Have these globetrotting companies begun to treat storage as a platform instead of a device?
Lallier says that as companies become more dependent on continuous access to their data, storage is being given greater importance. "Storage has gone from being a back office requirement to an integral part of the day-to-day operations of a successful company," he says.
"I certainly see storage becoming more of a platform than simply a device," says Farajun. He says business executives have evolved their understanding of storage from just an adjunct to their infrastructure to a core enabler of their business objectives.
Joseph agrees that there is a paradigm shift in progress, from the server as the central resource to the common, scalable pool of storage shared by all servers. "Consolidated, centrally managed and protected storage is a very strategic resource — the heart of every enterprise data center to which servers as expendable computing resources are attached for specific applications and deployed and re-deployed as needed," he says. "To modify Sun Microsystem's famous tagline, the SAN is the data center."
It is becoming apparent that we have entered the next stage in the development of storage networking — global storage networks that distribute and share storage resources over a geographically dispersed area. The big question is whether the storage industry is moving toward an era in which the intelligent management and storage of data is becoming the most strategic element of the IT infrastructure. We'll attempt to answer that question and others in the second part of this series.
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