Riskless Storage Efficiency: What It Is and Why IT Managers Need to Deliver on It

Over the next few years IT managers face entirely new sets of challenges when it comes to managing storage. These challenges go well beyond just buying enough storage capacity to keep up with data growth. Instead IT managers need to come up with entirely new storage management strategies that enable them to more effectively and efficiently manage storage such that they can meet their application requirements while at the same time keeping their costs and risks in check.

It is no secret that organizations year-over-year manage increasing amounts of data with annual growth rates reaching 40, 60 or even 100% or more. However the data of today and the storage that is needed to support it stands in marked contrast to the past. These differences include:

  • 70 – 90% of the data that organizations now manage is inactive data.
  • Power is becoming scarce in some parts of the country with one recent survey finding that as many as 64% of respondents could run out of power by 2011
  • Organizations across the country are becoming more aware of the cost of energy as well as its environmental impact
  • Downtime to perform system maintenance is becoming a thing of the past as more applications must operate 24×7 driven by today’s always-on Internet world
  • IT budgets and staffing levels are expected to remain flat throughout 2010 so organizations have to find ways to achieve higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness with the same amount of resources and people
  • Unemployment remains high (9.7% as of end of March 2010) which makes people understandably cautious about taking any risks that might put their job in jeopardy

This is the conundrum that today’s IT managers face. They need to identify technologies that put them on a course toward delivering on riskless storage efficiency such that they and their organizations can become even more efficient in storage management without introducing unacceptable levels of risk into the organization.

On the surface, one might almost think that because the percentage of inactive data is so high that it would actually make the IT manager’s job easier. They can in theory just deploy storage systems with SATA drives that would solve their storage capacity problems. While this approach might be economical and provides ample storage capacity, it fails to take into account users concerns such as automation, power efficiency, performance and, maybe most importantly, risk.

IT managers do not always know exactly what production data is active, the time periods during the day when it is active or even exactly on which volumes this active data resides. As a result, they end up over architecting their storage infrastructure such that it consists of high performance storage that meets the demands of their most active data even though it is only a fraction of the total amount of data that they manage.

To overcome this, they need to identify new storage technologies that:

  • Put the right data on the right tier of disk at the right time
  • Minimize upfront costs and keep costs down over the life of the technology
  • Efficiently use power without negatively impacting application performance
  • Leverage automation and policies to reduce manpower requirements
  • Facilitate their risk free introduction into organizations

The AutoMAID feature found on Nexsan‘s storage arrays is one such example of a technology that organizations can leverage as they look to start down this path towards achieving riskless storage efficiency.

In the case of AutoMAID, it provides three different power-saving settings for each disk drive in the system and monitors each drive such that it can operate at a power and performance level that is appropriate for the data stored on it. Further, these drives are both monitored and controlled by policies such that it can automatically go to the appropriate power mode or performance level to meet application demands.

Today’s data and storage management requirements clearly bear some resemblances to the past. However there are also new, unique characteristics that require new storage system features to meet the new organizational requirement of riskless storage efficiency. In a forthcoming blog, I will take a deeper look at what components are foundational to delivering on this new concept.

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