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Utility Model Turns Inward
Farajun says that primary disk as a utility has potential for market acceptance — but as an internal utility service managed by the central IT group and "sold" via charge backs within the corporation, a view that Schott agrees with.
Schott believes that the future of storage on demand is within IT departments that want to be able to provision storage as a utility to their users. "In this case, the IT department is the utility, not an outside entity," says Schott. This provides the benefits of centrally managing storage resources while being flexible in how resources are provided to applications, departments and users, with the added security of the company maintaining its own data stores.
"Vendors are now in a position to deliver customer solutions that create a central pool of storage that can be provisioned on demand as users and new applications require," Schott says.
Schott says that perhaps the biggest opportunity for outsourced storage-on-demand went the way of the dot-com bust, but that the issue of on-demand storage provisioning has become a hot topic within IT departments. "Storage customers continue to state their top issues are in managing growth and improving management of storage resources," says Schott. "Customers are looking for consolidated storage solutions that enable the on-demand model, which allows them to buy what they need when they need it."
Schott says IT managers are fed up with the current purchasing model that involves large capital purchases, planned to last three or four years, that run out of capacity along the way, requiring another large investment in the end.
Some industry experts believe that customers purchasing computing equipment based on projects — an approach that allows customers to start small based on current project needs and grow as the project expands or new projects are begun — is a much more effective business and operational model.
According to Schott, a single, scalable storage grid that can be provisioned on-demand for new applications could benefit both customers familiar with SAN technology and those not yet using it. "For IT departments that have already ventured into the SAN model, utility storage introduces a new paradigm for how SANs can be created, managed and scaled to meet growing requirements," he says. "For IT shops still utilizing direct attached storage (DAS), the utility storage concept provides a graceful model for how they can consolidate their storage into a SAN that can be managed cost-effectively and efficiently."
With a SAN solution designed to create and intelligently manage a scalable, central storage pool, the utility model can be deployed and grown without large expenditures or sophisticated IT resources, Schott says.
Farajun says servers that are hosted in a third-party data center that need to be backed up could benefit from storage utility deployment, since this is something that customers can buy from their hosting provider or SSP partner inside a data center offering the service. He also believes that customers who want to replicate or mirror their data offsite to an alternate data center could benefit from storage utility deployment.
The biggest opportunity for stand-alone storage on demand may have withered with the dot-com bust, but utility storage still has the potential for market acceptance — just in different forms than originally envisioned.