Storage Network Convergence – Making Life Simpler

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In today’s challenging economic environment, many organizations do not have the financial resources to keep pace with the ever growing demand for storage systems, which according to a recent Dataquest report is expected to exceed $59 billion in storage revenues by 2004.

Diversity invites complexity and confusion
The reality of shrinking budgets and diminishing storage expertise creates an unprecedented and unyielding demand for intelligent storage network infrastructures that reduce the total cost of ownership of enterprise class storage services.

While IT budgets continue to diminish and resources continue to dwindle, there is a proliferation of text, digital, and audio data that International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts is growing at a rate of 80 percent per year and will reach nearly two million terabytes by 2003. What clouds the issue even more is that storage environments have diversified to include new network attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SANs), along with traditional direct attached storage (DAS) solutions.

This diversity, according to industry experts, invites complexity and confusion and many times results in the underutilization of capacity, poorly managed resources, lack of scale and migration for existing storage investment. So, what does all of this mean? It means that IT departments need solutions that can maximize existing IT assets and storage resources by consolidating networked storage environments, simplifying management, and delivering high performance scalability. Companies like Maranti Networks, Inc., San Jose California and Agile Storage, Inc., Los Gatos, California are creating solutions to do just that by enabling intelligent storage networks.

Basic SAN and NAS connectivity is not enough to meet today’s enterprise storage needs
Maranti has pioneered a new class of storage networking infrastructure solutions that enable advanced, business critical storage services for global 2500 enterprises and service providers.
“We recognize that basic Storage Area Network (SAN) or Network Attached Storage (NAS) connectivity is not enough to meet today’s enterprise storage needs in the face of the ongoing data explosion data”, says Harish Nayak, co-founder and vice president of marketing at Maranti Networks. According to Harish, building intelligence into storage network enables organizations to stay ahead of the information management curve, enhance their competitive position, and lower their total cost of ownership. According to Nayak, Maranti has addressed these issues by creating the first standards-based, application-aware storage-switching platform–a platform that he says combines storage intelligence with performance, scalability, and availability.

Enabling differentiated storage capabilities
According to Nayak, Maranti Networks technology enables differentiated storage capabilities, ensuring business continuance with unprecedented scalability, availability, and performance while simplifying storage resource management. In addition, he says that the technology provides a platform that interoperates with existing storage infrastructures and offers seamless growth into next-generation storage architectures. According to Nayak, some of the advantages include: the ability to delivery enforceable service level policies and provide connectivity of Fibre Channel or iSCSI networks. In addition, Nayak says that his company’s technology enables advanced storage services independent of storage subsystems and simplifies storage management, therefore reducing storage ownership costs. In addition, he claims that his companys patent-pending technology creates the first standards-based, application-aware switching platform.

Consolidating storage environments and maximizing storage resources
Agile Storage, Inc. claims that it is the first company to launch a new class of file services solutions for networked storage that consolidates a storage environment and maximizes storage resources. According to Peter Tarrant, vice president of marketing at Agile, the company’s platform enables a storage network that is simple to manage, scalable, and protects existing infrastructure investments. He says that the solution empowers IT managers with an effective system to help control storage costs and ROI through the ability to consolidate, pool, and manage storage resources.

“We offer a new class of integrated networked storage solutions that manage enterprise data at the file level rather than moving bits and bytes around,” says Tarrant. The benefits of such a solution, he says, is that focusing on the file level can automatically partition storage resources based on the criticality of the application (such as SAP) and move it to a higher level storage resource (such as a Symmetrix box) then route the non-critical applications to cheaper storage resources. “Our solution provides IT managers with a policy-based approach to managing data and moving storage to a true utility model,” says Tarrant. In addition, Tarrant says that the new class of file services solutions empowers IT managers with an effective system to manage storage resources all from a central command center.

All organizations need a formal strategy for the distribution and management of storage assets. As organizations develop their storage strategies, they need to realize that storage solutions are following a path similar to that of the personal computer. As the cost of hardware declines, the cost of software and personnel to maintain and manage it becomes higher.

“As a result, today’s IT managers face a number of critical issues and challenges when architecting, installing, configuring, managing, and scaling their storage networks,” says Tarrant. “By bringing together industry standard networking and storage technologies, in combination with hardware and software innovations, organizations can now implement solutions that address these challenges and unleash the true potential of storage networks,” he continued. “Our mission is to deliver high performance solutions that allow IT users to build and easily operate their data storage networks with less equipment and management resources – while realizing a significant cost advantage relative to today’s closed and proprietary storage networking approaches,” he concluded.

While both companies are youngsters in the enterprise storage arena, both seem to be moving forward with innovative storage solutions that are being incorporated with existing storage solutions. For example: Maranti Networks recently hooked up with Microsoft to develop solutions that seamlessly interoperate with Microsoft’s Multipath I/O (MPIO) program. Microsoft’s MPIO program was designed to provide enterprise-class storage capabilities to Microsoft Windows’ server-based systems. According to Nayak, the agreement ensures that Maranti’s storage-networking platform will be fully compatible with the high availability features built into the Microsoft Windows 2000 Server and the upcoming .NET Server operating systems.

And, according to Tarrant, Agile Storage’s solutions are ideal for both new and existing storage networks, Agile Storage provides open solutions for Enterprise, Technical and Service Providers environments. “Our solutions are designed to alter the operational and capital cost of managing data storage networks while preserving investment and reducing the complexity of building and expansion,” says Tarrant.

“We have seen phenomenal growth in the storage networking market and see substantial demand for compelling infrastructure solutions that address enterprise data center requirements,” says Nayak. According to Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, Maranti’s architecture not only creates a more manageable, protocol independent base, but also puts incredible power at each port.


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Leslie Wood

Leslie Wood
Leslie Wood
Leslie. Wood is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor.

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