It’s Spring Cleaning Time for Your Data Center


Spring may mean warmer weather, but for most of us it also means getting in touch with our inner hoarder: seriously digging into our closets, cupboards and drawers and parting with stuff we don’t use anymore. The alternative, of course, is watching helplessly as our dens, basements, hallways and garages simply become makeshift storage rooms.

As frustrating as spring cleaning can be, it’s a piece of cake compared to the hoarding that’s going on in the average data center. Consider the astronomical growth in data that’s causing organizations’ storage needs to rise by 40% a year – all while IT budgets remain flat and data center resources are stretched to the limit. You can dig into your closet and toss your acid wash jeans from 1993 or that gaudy bowl you got from your aunt in Albuquerque, but how do you toss gigabytes and terabytes of data you can’t see? Where do you start? [Read more…]

Juggling storage challenges with unified management: How to avoid dropping the ball

I don’t know about you, but I find juggling one ball hard, let alone three or 43. But keeping all those balls from crashing all around you is a little like the challenge organizations face as they try to store and manage their ever-increasing volumes of data.

And I do mean ever-increasing. Because Great Recession or not, data growth has continued unabated – thanks to the digitization of infrastructures worldwide, the need to keep more copies of data for longer periods and the rapid increase in distributed data sources.

When it comes to managing this tidal wave of data, there is no shortage of products and approaches to choose from. But most of these more traditional offerings have unfortunately not kept pace with the many new and complex requirements of storage, nor do they address the need for a single management perspective. [Read more…]

Could there still be a place for tape?

Often, new technologies bury old ones – think of the demise of the horse and buggy or the record player. But sometimes, established technologies have a funny way of flailing for a bit then finding a new equilibrium. In-theater movie going, for instance, didn’t die when at-home devices became popular – they both simply learned to coexist in an expanded marketplace to the benefit and joy of consumers who now had more freedom than before.

Here’s another great example: For years now, ever since the advent of the disk, pundits have predicted the apocalyptic demise of tape backup – derisively calling it “end-of-life” technology.

But it just hasn’t happened. Tape is still here, firmly entrenched in the overwhelming majority (82%) of onsite backups. Or to borrow from Mark Twain, “the reports of physical tape’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”

In fact, tape solutions continue to play a huge role for backup, recovery, long-term data retention and data protection in most organizations, particularly small and medium sized businesses.

Why? [Read more…]

Are your growing storage needs threatened by the flood?

The Impact of Thailand Flooding on Enterprise Storage

Most IT professionals are aware that recent flooding in Thailand has had an impact on the Hard Disk Drive manufacturing industry.  The impact has been most immediate on disk drives used in PC’s and Industry Standard Servers (ISS) because the drive types used by these products are manufactured by the companies in these locations.  For the most part, Thailand does not supply Enterprise Hard Drives for Data Center disk arrays. 

 The most direct impact to enterprise storage from the Thailand floods is regarding component supply.  The extent of this impact over time is uncertain.  The consensus opinion from Storage Array manufacturers is that the impact of the Thailand flooding can potentially be the biggest swing factor regarding their sales over the next six months, especially toward the end of that timeline.  However, most did large buys of hard drives as the current situation was unfolding.  Therefore, they have most of the capacity they need for the next quarter, but possibly not all of it.

Although enterprise class drives are considered to be the least impacted, Softchoice still anticipates some amount of supply and pricing complexity.  The predictions of the industry analysts and the drive vendors themselves contain information that is conflicting, and most of it is changing daily in regards to scope and ultimate impact.

 Other things to keep in mind that mitigate the impact of the Thailand floods are [Read more…]

Backup against the wall?

Presenting Softchoice’s Top 6 backup challenges brought on by the virtualization revolution.

Few who’ve seen virtualization implemented in their organizations would debate its benefits. Reduced costs, fewer physical servers, less IT admin time – what’s not to love? But as users rely more on virtual machines, protecting the virtual environment is becoming more critical and complex – and there increasingly lies the struggle. Because the reality is, traditional backup applications haven’t kept up and organizations are struggling to find simple and cost-effective ways to not only protect the data in VMs but protect the VMs themselves.

With that challenge in mind, we thought we’d highlight the top six backup challenges arising from virtualization:

  1. ISV backup software simply isn’t cutting it. A lot of organizations have existing independent software vendor (ISV) applications that are fine for traditional disk or tape backups but much ISV software hasn’t kept pace or been optimized for VMware. VMs are complex enough without making managing and backing them up even more difficult with solutions that aren’t up to the challenge.
  2. Change agents. When software had to be backed up on one or a handful of physical servers that was one thing. But now organizations have dozens, hundreds, even thousands of VMs. That’s a lot of licenses, a lot of CPU power, a lot of I/O power, a lot of IT people painstakingly installing agents on each machine – in other words, it can be a very resource intensive process. The trend is moving to agentless backup software, which backs up systems without needing to install agents on each machine – it can even be done remotely (see #6).
  3. Virtual sprawl and slow backups. VMs, by their very nature, tend to be fat with lots of redundancy and unused capacity, often because they were over-provisioned at the start – someone thought they’d need a 100 Gb server for an HR application but it turned out 20 would have been enough. Now you’ve got a large machine (or two or two thousand of them) that will be slower to backup than they need to in part because most backup solutions read entire big disks and move entire VMs. [Read more…]

Automation: Virtualized Storage’s Amplifier…Rock On!

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency.

 – Bill Gates, Microsoft Co-Founder 

 In earlier posts I touched on the benefits of networked storage, tiered storage and storage virtualization. All of these great advancements were brought on by conditions within business and the economy where people were creating and using data at a breakneck pace while reducing their willingness to invest in the infrastructure to support these habits.  The result of these innovations over the last decade was making great improvements in efficiency in the overall storage network.

 While the last two decades brought about great advancements in infrastructure technologies, another phenomenon was taking place – the true integration of technology into business.  Technology is no longer thought of as a “back office” function for one or two areas within a business.  The majority of business leaders, while not always personally proficient with technology, understand the impact it can have when applied strategically to solve a business problem or improve operational efficiencies.

 We have entered a day where the application is king and everyone has “an app for that”.  Infrastructure architects that understand this are worth their weight in gold.  Too many in the vendor community today have lost sight that even though infrastructure technology is our business, it is not our clients’ business.  I always tell our team that our customers don’t buy infrastructure because they want to.  They buy it because they have to!

 Today, technology is irrelevant outside of the context of the application it supports.  The advances in storage have made storage environments more efficient, IT more responsive and enabled companies to match their investment in storage to the value of the application and its data.  Even with these advances, there is still a significant amount of management of storage infrastructures taking place.  [Read more…]