Struggling with storage

LAS VEGAS – Companies want to bring their islands of SANs down to a single unified view, a senior Hewlett-Packard executive said at the company’s StorageWorks conference here last week.

Aside from the growing number of storage area networks, another problem that companies face is over-provisioning and buying more storage than they really need, said Bob Schultz, senior vice-president and general manager of HP StorageWorks. “One of the biggest challenges for any organization is the distributed nature of businesses today,” he said.

In a survey of customers, HP found that one of their top five challenges is IT consolidation. That’s old news, said Schultz, since companies have been merging systems for years, but technology keeps advancing and storage keeps proliferating. And so does the number of SANs and switches. “It’s an ongoing process,” he said, “not one consolidation.”

While poor provisioning can result in data utilization as low as 44 per cent, customers wonder about money: “How do I shift money spent on infrastructure to money spent on innovation?” he said they ask.

Parag Suri, category business manager for HP Canada’s StorageWorks Division, said in an interview that enterprises are consolidating of data centres, which includes both servers and storage. Partners can bring technologies to the table for managing this infrastructure in a unified way, he said. “As a company we’re working with partners to solve the entire data centre problem instead of [doing it] piecemeal.”

In the SMB space, more small and mid-size businesses are acquiring storage products for backup and recovery. “I’ve never seen small businesses so concerned about backup before,” he said. “It’s great news for dealers.”

He also sees opportunities for dealers in the utility computing space, which is catching on in the mid-market. Partners will be able to work in conjunction with HP, he said, on developing financial instruments and metering technology for pay-as-you-go models.

Companies are now viewing “insight” as an asset, and looking for insight into their organizations. “I don’t hear a lot of people in IT talking about it,” said Tom Baylark, president of TnP Consulting in Atlanta. Too many vendors think they can pump information into repositories and provide access to it, but that’s not enough, he said. They also have to refine it into something that’s usable. The value of information lifecycle management, he added, is it allows you to incubate new business models, validate business strategies and develop proactive and reactive models.

Warner Bros., for example, is turning to an advanced storage strategy to retain its intellectual property, from classics like “Gone with the Wind” to Bugs Bunny cartoons, which have started to deteriorate on film.

The film studio has more than 6,000 movies in its archives, so it underwent a “scan to SAN” project with HP allowing the reissue and remarket classics on DVD, said Chuck Dages, EVP of emerging technology with Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. There’s also a drive to create new and faster products, to provide entertainment on cell phones, PDAs and over IP networks, so, for example, users can download the previous night’s episode of “Desperate Housewives” on a PDA the next morning.

To digitize and store a movie takes up to 20 TB, and in process up to 140 TB (because of out-takes). This capacity requirement meant the architecture had to be capable of handling 200 TB with the ability to increase that three-fold in the next 12 to 16 months, since the first installation only involved 30 per cent of its archived movies. Warner Bros. installed 10 HP EVA 8000s with OTY1680 disk drives, as well as Brocade SAN directors. There’s no need to move data once ingested and the overall time to complete projects has been reduced, said Dages. And Warner Bros. can now store master copies for 600 to 800 years.

Also at the conference, HP announced a coordinated effort with EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, Sun Microsystems and Symantec to drive the Storage Networking Industry Association’s (SNIA) Storage Management Initiative specification (SMI-S).

The goal is to enhance SMI-S with new specifications and programming interfaces for a Web services framework, and to provide the first reference implementation. The vendors said they would also seek to give independent hardware and software vendors, service providers and system integrators a common standards-built platform so they can quickly develop storage management services.

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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