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It’s all about the space

Enterprise storage isn’t boring; it’s an interesting area that’s in constant flux to keep up with digital and data demand.
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Technology is all about change. It changes to meet the demands of the organisation wrestling with uncertainty. It changes to meet customer and market expectations that flux and flex with capability and innovation. The organisation is challenged to find smart ways of keeping up with tech in order to remain the disruptor, not the disrupted, and so it can fully tap into its potential and remain sustainable while building on the market’s cracked foundations.

This is why hardware remains a critical investment, and why storage should be an enterprise priority. As Forrester points out, storage infrastructure has to remain apace with technology investment to ensure that the organisation can retain its capacity and not be limited in its performance. The research firm believes that just as an organisation’s approaches to technology are evolving, so too should its management and investments into storage – software-defined and cloud-connected storage replacing standalone storage as de facto best practice.

This perception is echoed across every discussion around enterprise storage trends and the solutions that are dominating the sector. Flash storage is set to continue its growth over the next five years, with Mordor Intelligence predicting that it will achieve a CAGR of 13.67% from 2021 to 2026. This is largely due to the rapid increase in data volumes that are putting immense pressure on existing enterprise architecture. Flash storage offers low-cost, low-power benefits alongside expanding space and functionality. It’s being flanked by multicloud storage options and platforms that are becoming increasingly popular due to their scalability and flexibility. Cloud-based storage is also one of the factors driving public cloud investment, according to Gartner, with companies such as Tencent and AWS focusing on compute and storage access solutions that can be curated and customised by clients. Multicloud offers the organisation richer control over business resources and makes it simple to automate tasks across infrastructure – enterprises can leverage this technology alongside AI capabilities to manage resource consumption versus demand and ensure consistent uptime and reliability.

Containerisation

In fact, AI is already playing an impressive role in the evolution of storage by offering enterprises the ability to provide 24/7/365 support, and provide rapid provisioning of infrastructure using predictive and proactive analysis of workloads and demand. It allows for the enterprise to deftly manage storage service consumption on demand and ensure deployment is completed on time, to the right platform, and is relevant to the workload.

Containerisation remains a stable storage option for organisations, especially as more and more enterprises run containers to ensure effective resource management and allocation throughout the business. Containers such as Kubernetes allow for the organisation to abstract exactly what’s needed to provide applications with high-performance storage without having to maintain expensive storage based on operating system dependency.

From containers to flash to multicloud, enterprise storage is an ever-evolving beast that has a tentacle for every requirement, bespoke problem and organisation. The hard part is choosing which solution best fits the organisation.

Hayden Sadler, Infinidat.
Hayden Sadler, Infinidat.

Q&A

Finding the best fit storage for your needs.

Brainstorm: What role does AI play in thestorage space and what solutions demonstrate its value?

Hayden Sadler, country manager: South Africa, Infinidat: The use of AI technology, also known in the storage industry as autonomous automation, plays a significant role in determining where data should be stored and the performance for each workload. Autonomous automation reduces storage manpower and administrative work across enterprise storage systems, leading to better data placement, better capacity planning, and lower operational manpower requirements.

Ian Engelbrecht, Systems Engineering manager: Africa, Veeam Software: Consider automated storage tiering from high-performance, high-cost to low-performance, low-cost when a workload is not utilising all the available storage capability or is less busy, thus helping overcome expensive cloud costs. In other words, only rent or consume high-performance storage when the workload actually needs it.

Jaco Erasmus, enterprise manager for Dell EMC, Drive Control Corporation: AI helps with day-to-day management and drives efficiencies and productivity in these complex systems. The business goals will be determined by policies and real-time AI/ML capabilities that will, in turn, automate processes to ensure better utilisation and management of your data platform.

André Engelbrecht, CIO, TreasuryONE: AI and machine learning have greatly reduced the amount of storage space required for large database systems, as instead of data being for analytics, it can now automatically be processed with robotic process automation. This means that only the required information is extracted and stored in the database, limiting the necessity of large storage systems.

Collen Maphosa, NetApp pre-sales engineer, Westcon-Comstor SSA: AI solutions remove bottlenecks at the edge, core and cloud to enable more efficient data collection, accelerated AI workloads and smoother cloud integration. It’s completely dependent on real-time access to large amounts of data, however, as this is key to identifying patterns and developing predictive insights.

Brainstorm: Name the storage and its benefit – why should the enterprise care?

Daniel Teixera, Systems Engineering manager: South Africa, Pure Storage: Containerisation improves efficiency, delivers agility, and ultimately enables faster data insight. It means organisations can run workloads where there is capacity, so data can be fluid, providing faster analysis and insight. It's a future-looking technology that organisations should be investing in.

Dennis Naidoo, country manager: South Africa, Hitachi Vantara: Storage is always a hot topic as workloads grow and demand higher levels of performance. Over the next 12months, we will see customers making focused investments to maximise the performance of flash storage. This can be split into two areas: firstly, in the wider infrastructure itself in the form of front-end NVMe, and, secondly, in software so the right workload is automated to the right storage.

Phillip de Waal, Systems Engineering manager, Nutanix Sub-Saharan Africa: Containerisation is the next big thing; it's how people are deploying applications into the public cloud. One benefit is that it enables users to take applications that they've developed and containerised and use services from public cloud providers. Another benefit is the portability of containerised applications that offer better efficiency and faster delivery.

Brainstorm: What role does Networking-as-a-Service (NaaS) play in the storage world?

Collen Maphosa, Westcon-Comstor SSA: NaaS is the backbone of every communication system, allowing users to access resources from any location. Customers who use hybrid solutions don’t need to own datacentres; they can rent out resources instead.

Ian Engelbrecht, Veeam Software: With a multicloud strategy, where data and services across multiple public or private clouds, other environments and applications running at the edge, there is still a requirement to access, change and store data across all platforms. The risk of a multicloud environment would be the latencies and performance issues of one cloud service accessing data at the edge or in another cloud. This becomes simplified with NaaS.

Dennis Naidoo, Hitachi Vantara: At Hitachi, we don’t own our own proprietary networking solution, so we partner with several vendors, including Broadcom and Cisco to deliver these services. NaaS is a huge part of Storage-as-a-Service offerings as the cost of fabric connectivity is large and knowing what is the right technology to bet on is costly. With NaaS, you can make use of the features you need today and switch on what you need tomorrow, consuming the technology required to make the most from your storage.

Stick it in storage

GUD Holdings reshapes its enterprise storage infrastructure to improve its ERP system performance.

GUD Holdings, a publicly listed company that derives its revenue from the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of automotive products and water pressure systems, recently redesigned its enterprise storage systems as a way of overcoming issues with its new enterprise resource platform (ERP). The company was struggling with speed and performance and needed a fresh storage approach to get systems up to the right standards for users.

“In some instances, we were sitting at up to 40 millisecond latency because of the traffic running on the Oracle system,” says Wilhelm Tesnaar, IT Infrastructure manager, GUD Holdings. “We needed a solution that could help us overcome this latency on our Oracle database platform.”

The team looked at what was available on the market and, after talking to several different service providers and individuals, found one that was unique in its promise from Pure Storage. Tesnaar contacted the company and asked them to put a proof of concept in place.

“The pressure and latency we were experiencing on our ERP was minimised in the first hour,” he adds. “The implementation took an hour, the complete transfer of our workloads onto the Pure Storage system took a week. It has been a game changer in our business with regards to being able to provision capacity to the business as and when it’s needed.”

The Pure Storage solution selected by the company was chosen because of its low latency – sub-one-millisecond latency. This was the immediate drawcard as it resolved the challenge impacting performance within the company; the second was that the solution uses a flash-based technology as opposed to the traditional spindles.

“There’s also this bug bear that you spend so much on storage and have to replace it every three to five years, depending on your business requirements,” says Tesnaar. “What was great about this solution is that as long as you use it and keep up with your maintenance, you’re up to date with the latest technology and trends.”

In addition to the cost and relevance of the solution, Tesnaar believes that one of the biggest benefits of the platform is that the company didn’t need to employ additional storage arrays as they can expand on the existing framework. Capacity is increased by simply slotting an additional frame onto the actual storage.

“Pure Storage also has the ability to give us a very robust datacentre solution where we can replicate our whole storage in an encrypted format on an Amazon S3 bucket in another storage array – it’s literally a bulletproof solution,” says Tesnaar.

“It’s also worth mentioning that, despite power disruptions in SA, we had no corruptions on our database. This is probably one of the biggest advantages of the platform – if the power is abruptly cut off, we know our data is going to be fine.”

For GUD Holdings, the investment not only sped up its performance and resolved legacy challenges, but the company managed to walk away from the floods in KwaZulu Natal without losing a shred of valuable information.

“We just unplugged it, plugged it back in, fired up the server and everything’s still fine,” Tesnaar says.

* This feature was first published in the July edition of ITWeb's Brainstorm magazine.

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10 Aug
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