Storage Virtualization: An attempt at making the complex simple.

Want to extend the life of your IT assets? SAN virtualization might be for you.  

 The explosion of data growth over the last decade put a lot of demands on IT in an era when budgets, particularly IT budgets, were under great strain.  While it was good news for all of us that most of the predictions of the Y2K era did not come true, IT suffered a setback in many organizations when it came to their ability to make sweeping changes in infrastructure. 

 While data continued its rapid growth, many IT departments suffered staff reductions.  With organizations operating at minimal staffing, the question of the day moved from, “How do I do more with less?” to, “How do I do more with the same?”  This still holds true today.

 Because most organizations in the early 2000’s were not looking at making big technology investments IT departments dealt with their growth in storage by implementing storage tiers and integrating additional discreet storage arrays.  Each array became a new point of management adding increased management complexity. 

All of the incremental complexity added up and the idea of storage virtualization was born.

 With storage virtualization you put an appliance with a layer of abstraction in front of the various discreet storage arrays in the environment.  The benefits, when done right, are tremendous.  Some of the benefits provided by storage virtualization include:

  •  Simplifying storage management by providing a single storage interface for all storage devices
  • Adding new software functionality (replication, cloning, snapshots, etc.) that adds to or improves on a storage asset’s capabilities.
  • Extending the life of older assets by allowing capacity to be redeployed.
  • Reducing the overall storage spend.

 You may ask, if it is so great, then why isn’t it everywhere.  I’m glad you asked.  Some of the earliest products in this space had [Read more…]

Not all data is created equal.

SAN’s and Storage Tiering: Difficult Situations Inspire Ingenious Solutions.  

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” – Thomas Jefferson, US Declaration of Independence 

While it is self-evident people are created equal, it is also self-evident to IT professionals managing application infrastructure that not all data is created equal.

In the late 1980’s through the 1990’s, Information Technology was only used by a small number of distinct applications – Financial Systems, Document Creation and one or two custom applications, all with dedicated hardware.  Data sets were small.  For most companies, the number of applications that pushed the performance envelope could be counted on one hand.  The primary purpose of consolidated storage platforms in that era was enabling high availability for applications by providing redundant storage architecture and supporting clustering at the server level.

As database technologies, ERP applications, Electronic Data Interchange, Web-Enabled ecommerce applications, Business Intelligence, Multimedia and now social media have been integrated into all aspects of the enterprise, both the performance and capacity limits of storage architectures have been challenged.  [Read more…]

You’ve got way too much mail.

How archiving is helping organizations get email under control.  

 Consider, if you will, these two predicaments.

 Organization A, which is particularly prone to lawsuits, has decided not to keep email backups beyond 30 days.  This decision is based on the knowledge that the number one issues courts are looking for today concerning email retention is for a company to have established policies in place and are actively enforcing them.  Today’s regulatory compliance is focused on security of specific personal information and the retention of specific documents related to people, patients, business transactions, etc. 

 At first glance, this somewhat extreme approach can seem effective at mitigating business risk in today’s litigious business climate.  The theory being that what no longer exists can’t be used against the organization in the future. However, inconvenienced employees needing access to older emails end up forwarding them to personal email accounts or requesting them from customers and vendors.  A decision meant to mitigate risk actually multiplies risk by having potentially confidential company information stored in uncontrolled and unsecure environments.

 Then there’s Organization B, on the opposite end of the spectrum, which can’t decide what to do with its sea of emails and attachments, what to keep or delete, so it hoards everything – a potentially costly and storage-devouring situation.  Not only does this turn out to be unsustainable over the long term it can have dramatic performance impact on a key business critical application.  Should this organization have to [Read more…]

With storage, what’s old is new again.

Open Systems Availability: Virtualization’s First Frontier

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun… – Ancient proverb

 Server virtualization has brought great advances in flexibility, efficiency and responsiveness to today’s always-on, web-enabled data centers.  Although that is what most people think today when they hear the word “virtualization” it is simply a current application of an old principle.

 When open systems technologies, UNIX and Windows in particular, came on the scene in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s they represented much more affordable ways for business to use technology.  How we work today is a direct result of the productivity advances made possible through these technologies.  However, they had one great downfall. 

 Compared to the much more expensive mainframe and mini-computing technologies of their day, early open systems were less reliable and full of single points of failure.  Disk drive reliability was addressed by [Read more…]