Storage Outlook: Automating Management
In the second part of our storage outlook series, we examine the need for dedicated teams for automating storage management. Among other issues facing storage end users, interoperability and the future of tape backup continue to generate debate.
One widespread notion in the storage industry is that users can't automate storage management processes such as provisioning without dedicated management teams. Some vendors hope that time — and easier to use products — will prove that notion incorrect.
Eric Schott, director of product marketing at EqualLogic, says that most IT departments can't afford to develop personnel for a single portion of the IT infrastructure. In smaller organizations, the IT team may be a team of one, he notes.
"As products continue to improve, the goal is to allow administrators to perform their provisioning task, versus always requiring a team to perform provisioning operations," says Schott.
Whether users are able to automate storage management without dedicated management teams depends on their situation, says David Scott, president and CEO of 3PAR. Scott says users will not be able to automate storage management without dedicated teams if they do not implement intelligent storage systems, and instead continue to rely on inefficient and complex storage solutions like traditional monolithic arrays or multi-layered network-based virtualization.
"However, I do not believe this would be needed if users implement storage platforms that provide simple integrated storage management within a massively scalable array," he says.
On the other hand, having an integrated team is no guarantee that's you'll be able to automate your storage management — sometimes it's better to maintain some control, says Asaf Levy, vice president of product management at Onaro.
"Many organizations have already established dedicated storage teams, but none are using automated storage provisioning due to manual processes, complexities, high risk and lack of control," says Levy. "The only enabler to automatic provisioning is the integration with storage change management that validates the provisioning requests before execution as well as assures and validates the correct execution by the provisioning tools."
On the question of whether dedicated storage management teams are needed for driving best practices as a service for the rest of the organization, Levy notes that some, but not many, organizations have established best practices such as ITIL. "Customers' experience shows that establishing best practices and ITIL processes is much easier when using a change management solution that enforces these policies continuously and reports any deviation from them," he says.
EqualLogic's Schott says there is a presumption that specialized best practice knowledge is available only within a storage team. However, he notes, most IT departments do not have a dedicated storage team, yet they regularly deploy solutions. "Best practice solutions will come from the industry making these solutions easy and affordable to deploy," he says. "This will cause the best practice to be the norm rather than the exception."
"If customers choose to implement complex and brittle networked solutions, they will indeed need to force controls into the enterprise by having dedicated storage management teams to attempt to optimize the utilization and availability of a brittle infrastructure," 3PAR's Scott says.
Interoperability: An Ongoing Issue
Schott believes that interoperability issues will continue. "This is inherent in the business model for FC," he says. "The volumes are low enough that in order to support the different solutions, the solutions must have proprietary features in order to distinguish themselves." Schott believes that standardization inherently causes commoditization, which runs contrary to the business model.
"I believe we have moved beyond the FC SAN interoperability issue," says Doug Ingraham, senior director of SAN switching at CNT. "The reason that each vendor's arrays are incompatible and require a different SAN is because each vendor adds unique features to differentiate their offerings — not because of FC SAN interoperability issues."
Levy believes that IT organizations will continue to build large interoperable storage environments. However, he also says that as interoperability becomes less of an issue, complexity and risk will increase exponentially without a change management validation solution.
The Future of Tape
Despite rumors of its demise, some industry experts believe that tape technology still has features and benefits unmatched by any other storage method, especially when it comes to true mass data storage, backup, disaster recovery and archival applications. And, despite minimal shipment growth and actual declines in some markets, some experts say tape will continue to prove its value for those uses.
That said, in an era of heightened security awareness, tape handling practices will have to change to meet greater data privacy and security demands.
Long-term data retention requires low-cost, reliable and easily transportable media, says Schott — and tape fits the bill. "I believe that over time, disk storage will reign as the leader in the 30-60 day data retention data arena; however, the longer than 60-day data retention arena will continue to be dominated by tape," he says.
Ingraham believes that tape will remain king for archival purposes, but that low-cost disk technologies such as SATA are eating into the market opportunity for tape for backup and recovery. "I believe that, over time, companies will migrate to disk-based backup and recovery solutions," Ingraham says.
Scott says that tape will continue to be of value for some time for archiving and regulatory compliance, especially for customers who need to archive information in safe, secure locations.
"However," he says, "data backup and restores are increasingly being done to and from disk to speed up recovery." Scott says that some of the technologies that support this trend include copy-on-write snapshot technology, application-level integration with storage snapshots, and integrated data management technologies within the storage array.
Demand for data storage continues to grow exponentially, driven by realities such as 24/7 business operations, e-commerce, e-mail and regulatory compliance. As business data continues to increase in volume, it also continues to increase in value — it is still one of the most important ingredients to the success and survival of businesses across the globe.
As long as data — be it mission-critical or archival — and the ability to restore or recover that data remains a top priority for the success and survival of businesses, storage issues are likely to continue to be high on the list of priorities for organizations everywhere, and the need to automate storage processes becomes more significant.
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