Managing Storage Growth, Part 3: When To Outsource

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Building and managing a cost-effective storage infrastructure is a never-ending challenge. And with increasing demand for data-intensive applications, managing storage growth is becoming more and more a critical part of today’s enterprises.

One of the major concerns facing organizations is what, if any, part of their overall storage infrastructure should be outsourced. According to industry experts, the most common storage management tasks outsourced today are remote backups, disaster recovery hot sites/co-location of data centers, and archiving.

Zophar Sante, vice president of marketing and development at Sanrad, says that if at all possible, companies should perform most of the operations related to data in-house, but a third party data recovery service is a viable outsourcing solution for companies with a single location looking for remote replication and data recovery services.

Eran Farajun, executive vice president of Asigra, says there is no single answer to what companies should outsource, but he agrees that one of the more common storage tasks that many companies outsource is backup and recovery.

Farajun says this is a simple decision because it is hard for most organizations to perform this task well and to do it well consistently. Because it is not considered “core” to the company, it is a prime candidate for outsourcing to a value-added partner. “Most companies’ stock price or shareholder value will not increase if they have a good backup/recovery system,” Farajun says.

Wayne Lam, vice president of FalconStor, agrees that for smaller organizations, outsourcing disaster recovery is a viable option. However, he says it is critical for organizations to find a trustworthy disaster recovery service to manage the data.

Jeff Silva, vice president of strategy for MaXXan Systems, says the outsourcing of backup and recovery tasks really depends on the business policies of each company. “Most companies do not feel comfortable with outsourcing the management of their information and storage assets,” he says.

Enterprise-Class Storage for the Masses

Perhaps the most noteworthy storage trend is that enterprise-class features are becoming much more affordable, thanks to new technologies like iSCSI and serial ATA . Storage is becoming cheaper and more accessible to businesses of all sizes, and cost-effective storage arrays with advanced, enterprise-class management features are now available for the mid-range market.

According to Peter Hunter, product marketing manager for EqualLogic, the most economical options are the new breed of SAN solutions based on iSCSI and SATA drives. The best of the new solutions are rich with automated management features previously found only in high-end Fibre Channel SANs and expensive enterprise storage management applications, he says. “iSCSI has changed the storage landscape entirely, wreaking havoc among the traditional monolithic storage vendors, and introducing a democratic, accessible vision of consolidated, virtualized storage for the masses,” says Hunter.

Hunter believes the IT infrastructure is changing to support this widespread storage consolidation. “Operating systems have become ‘SAN-aware’ out-of-the-box, so that servers can readily be attached to the SAN and boot from the SAN,” he says.

Hunter also believes that as more and more businesses consolidate storage into SANs, the central pool of storage is becoming the heart of the data center. “This represents a major shift from the server and its dedicated storage as the center of the IT universe to the SAN, where servers point to a virtual, expandable volume on an array and can be deployed, redeployed or decommissioned without disruption to the use,” he says. “In the SAN-centric universe, it’s all about the data and its availability, intelligent management, and protection.”

Robert McIntyre, vice president of business development and marketing for Netex, says that more and more storage vendors are beginning to endorse IP standards, including GigE and iSCSI implementations that run over native TCP-based networks. “Remote storage networking transport protocols such as FCIP will be used less in the future, especially as vendors implement native TCP applications,” says McIntyre.

Sante agrees that iSCSI has great potential, delivering IP-SAN and remote data services for less than NAS and FC-SAN.

Storage Options Proliferate

Farajun believes that the storage market is diverging, rather than converging. What he means is that as the market has evolved, new, highly-specialized “species” of storage technologies are being created to solve specific problems. The storage market is getting more complex, not simpler, he says.

“Customers have different types of problems, which requires unique technologies to solve those problems,” he says. “If you look at leading storage vendors’ product portfolios today, they are much more extensive than they were even five years ago.” Farajun believes this trend will continue.

He cites data protection software as an example of this divergence. “It’s not just tape back-up anymore,” he says. “Today, the data protection software market includes remote replication, distributed back-up software, D-2-D solutions, televaulting software, mirroring, continous back-up, etc.”

As storage continues to take up huge chunks of IT budgets, issues like business continuity and disaster recovery, vendor consolidation, real-time infrastructure, commoditization and virtualization will continue to recast the storage landscape. Gartner analysts have said that the distinction between NAS and SANs is blurring, and that file systems will become hot over the next few years, as will virtualization and attempts to make storage networks more intelligent and secure.

For organizations to maintain an effective and efficient storage infrastructure, end users and vendors must continue to explore new technologies that control costs while at the same time providing companies with the needed amount of resources, products, and services.

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

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