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Data Migration and User Account Management: Grid Storage Tackles the Hidden Issues of Storage System Management

Having managed multiple types of storage systems from multiple different storage vendors, there are two flaws that are common across many vendors’ storage systems: the inability to transparently migrate data to subsequent generations of their own hardware and the inability to share administrative permissions with other like storage systems from that vendor. How acute this problem is depends on how many storage systems a company manages and how often it replaces them. However any administrator that is responsible for managing five, ten or more storage systems in today’s enterprise corporations understands exactly what I am talking about.

As administrators know all too well, the task of managing storage systems (firmware upgrades, user management, storage allocations, etc.) eventually supplants the task of managing the application data residing on those storage systems. Yet managing multiple storage systems is now part of the enterprise storage management equation. Because of this, companies need to factor in how they will manage multiple storage systems from one console as well as migrate data from old systems to new systems to upgrade performance or storage capacity.

To be fair, there is some progress in the area of storage system administration. Companies can now manage multiple storage systems from one console so the same administrator or user account is present across all of the storage systems. In essence, storage system vendors are borrowing the concept of network directory services such as Microsoft Active Directory or LDAP and even starting to grant their storage systems access to these network services to simplify the task of user account management on storage systems.

However the bigger problem of data migration remains the Achilles Heel of storage system managment. If a storage system is fully depreciated, its technology is antiquated or the system is at its limits in performance or storage capacity, there is no easy way for a company to migrate data from an existing storage system to a new one without going through lengthy and painful data migrations.

Further, with disk becoming the primary target for archiving and backup, an interesting phenomenon is occurring – companies are discovering that they do not want to spend more money or time managing these systems. Essentially, they want all of the benefits of using disk for archive or backup without all of the associated downsides because they no longer have the time, patience or resources to deal with managing it (i.e. administration, data migrations and inability to scale and upgrade existing systems).

It is exactly these sorts of constraints that storage systems such as the NEC HYDRAstor that are based on a grid storage architecture address. In previous blog entries I have described how the HYDRAstor can scale storage capacity or performance independently through the use of its Accelerator and Storage Nodes. What is equally as powerful is that the HYDRAstor retains information about the data on the system as new nodes are added or old ones removed. This solves the problem of retaining user account information as the HYDRAstor grows and evolves as well as eliminates the need for companies to create new user accounts.

Even more importantly, the HYDRAstor automatically migrates data from old storage nodes to new ones and then evenly balances the storage capacity across its storage nodes. This automatic migration feature eliminates the normal pain that companies experience planning for outages and how to best migrate data so it laid out appropriately on the new system as well as just the task of actually migrating the data and monitoring its progress. Instead the HYDRAstor takes this task on in a non-disruptive manner for the life of the system.

The reality of grid storage is that companies can change their focus from managing the storage system to once again managing their business. Grid storage provides companies the new type of storage system that takes care of itself by self-managing its administration, growth and data migrations for as long as the business uses the system. Storage systems based on grid storage lay the foundation to become a company’s one system forever that allows companies to take advantage of continual advances in capacity and performance, take the pain out of data migrations and preserve user accounts as the system grows and evolves.

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