Keeping It Simple: Building a Storage Network


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As with all large projects, building a storage network is easier to do if you divide the process into smaller steps. But when you're just getting started, it's hard to know exactly what those steps should be. Marty Foltyn recently discussed with data storage network expert Bill Peldzus where to start and how best to proceed when constructing a storage network.

As with all large projects, building a storage network is easier to do if you divide the process into smaller steps. But when you're just getting started, it's hard to know exactly what those steps should be. I talked to a data storage network expert, Bill Peldzus, director of Storage Architecture at GlassHouse Technologies, about where to start and how best to proceed. I expected to hear the real scoop, since GlassHouse offers independent storage consulting services and does not sell or resell any hardware or software, and that's exactly what I received from Bill.

Marty Foltyn (MF): Bill, let's say I've just been given the assignment to evaluate my company's current data storage setup and to recommend our next storage system. Let's also say I'm thrilled to be trusted with the responsibility but am anxious about doing a good job. What would you recommend?

Bill Peldzus (BP): Well, first I would congratulate you and remind you that if your management trusts you with this business-critical assignment, you've already shown them you are up to the task. Then I'd recommend your new mantra: "Keep it simple." Data storage today is complex, and it will be worse in the future, so your main job is to chart a path that protects data, keeps your company up and running, and enables the IT staff and managers to do their jobs.

MF: I'd definitely like to "keep it simple." Where do I start?

BP: Step back a moment from just "jumping in" and make part of your plan be a process to build out your system in phases. You can be sure each phase is working well before you implement the next. You can also take advantage of developments in new technology.

MF: How do I know which phase to start with?

BP: Study your company's goals and how data storage can support them. This will reveal problem areas that IT can address. Rank the problems and the dollar effect each has on your company's bottom line. This will help you sort your most important changes from the changes that can wait.

MF: After I have my phases, how do I sort out the technology to use?

BP: Here's where the industry can help if you continue your "keep it simple" focus. While the historic push has been on disk density, in 2003 storage infrastructure is becoming the target. The storage product landscape is expanding to include services as well as software and hardware. We're learning about application integration and management, storage policy management, resource management, and system management. Then there's virtualization, continuity, replication, and storage networking. All this is built upon the hardware fundamentals of arrays, libraries, disk drives, and tape drives. To sort through this, marry your vendors to your vision. Tell them your top three goals. Since you've already clearly identified your goals and your phases, this should be easy.

MF: Do I need to stick with one vendor, or will I be safe buying products and services from multiple vendors?

BP: Interoperability is still an issue (see PowerPoint slide). If we think of a bare-bones SAN, we have over 36 vendors to talk to, and these vendors combined can offer over 67,000 product combinations. Many of these combinations are supported, but they may not be certified. SNIA's Supported Solutions Forum (SSF) has made a good start toward interoperability. SSF vendor members make sure their products work together and the vendors pledge to support their products as used in the supported solutions. But this is just a start. It is possible to install a heterogeneous, multivendor storage network, but to do it, you must enforce your "keep it simple" focus and make sure your vendors work toward your goals, which might not be theirs. You have a big communication job here.

Page 2: Building a Storage Network Continued

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