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Storage management unlocked

The push to centralise storage between departments has contributed to the need to view multiple storage devices as a single unit.
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There has been a lot of excitement and activity in the storage management space over the past few quarters. Acquisitions by all the large storage vendors have added product depth and functionality, and local resellers have significantly ramped up investment in skills development.

Increasingly, business needs and the cost of storage management are driving the demand for storage and backup management products. In many companies, individual departments have purchased different storage products over the years, adding to management complexity. There is now a push to centralise storage between departments, which has contributed to the need to view multiple storage devices as a single unit.

Storage management product purchases are still hard to justify as they remain costly. Recent acquisitions of smaller niche storage management solutions into the stable of the large storage vendors have resulted in less diversity in the market. Although this may not be driving down the price, it is providing customers with products that contain a lot more capability. Also, products from hardware-agnostic vendors are worth considering as they can offer a non-proprietary approach.

Where are the administrators?

Ironically, customers tend to focus on the evaluation of product and the suitability of the suppliers while overlooking the availability and capability of local storage management personnel.

The customer is currently faced with the challenge that internal personnel are often not certified (or have not completed all the recommended modules). To complicate matters, staff who are certified and experienced are often enticed to move.

The real value of managed services lies in measurable deliverables, which translate into a meaningful and obtainable service level agreement.

Logan Hill, business unit executive for security and availability at Faritec

This has an impact on the functional promise of the products, as the cost-saving features identified as being important at the time of sale are often not deployed or are simply not being used. The result is that customers do not realise the potential of the product.

The industry has sought to address this situation by providing a variety of managed service offerings. These on-site or remote services focus on the day-to-day management of storage environments including capacity, fabrics, zoning, logical unit number management, backup and recovery as well as tape management. These services can be outsourced or provided as a joint effort.

Value of managed services

The real value of managed services lies in measurable deliverables, which translate into a meaningful and obtainable service level agreement. Most storage management service providers have adopted slightly different approaches that are transparent to the customer.

This differentiation is related to the back-end integration of storage and backup management into the existing service delivery infrastructure. This is exciting because storage management can suddenly lead to the provision of broader services by exploiting the service infrastructure so that the sum of the total service value exceeds the individual value of the various components.

The more established service providers are concentrating on integrating backup and storage management products with security offerings to build a service that provides a singular (dashboard) view for the protection and management of customer data.

This is in line with international trends, where the accepted view both from analysts and customers is that we need to look at data as objects, which need different types of availability, security and retention periods. Moreover, these data objects will reside in different places during their lifespan.

Information management

This in turn requires that storage management becomes integrated with information management in the sense that data classification and the ability to manage, move, retain, backup, search and delete both structured and unstructured data is becoming increasingly important.

The primary driver for this is that, until recently, companies were internally driven. They were focused on the strategic and efficiency benefits associated with implementing technology. However, recent external influences such as regulatory compliance and information leakage have forced corporates to succumb to non-competition-driven influences that come from outside the organisation.

These changes have led to a shift from a focus on structured data to the management of both structured and unstructured data. Unstructured data brings its own complexities to the table. It is hard to manage and secure, and in most cases exists in silos across the organisation. Often the business requirement to present a single view of the customer is complicated by individual business unit requirements, disparate standards and unrelated efforts from IT to centralise.

This challenge has resulted in the requirement for new (and a review of not so new) products. For years, content management has been a niche product specific to certain parts of the organisation. However, the drive to comply with regulatory requirements has forced companies to understand and classify their data. Consequently, content management is increasingly being viewed as one of the tools that will assist in the management and retention of data, and storage management is increasingly becoming a component of the total content management solution.

Newer tools have come to light, such as software that allows us to deliver Google-like functionality in the enterprise. Offerings such as these are just beginning to emerge as the next wave of the storage/data management evolution.

While storage appears to be getting simpler to manage, in reality it is getting more complicated as we need to manage, classify and secure our corporate data. The more experienced reseller has identified these trends and is making strategic investments to provide for these requirements.

* Logan Hill is business unit executive for security and availability at Faritec.

Logan Hill

Business unit executive for security and availability at Faritec.

Logan Hill is a certified information systems security professional and was recently appointed as business unit executive for security and availability at Faritec. He has been at Faritec for three years, where he is responsible for business solutions development within the security offering. Hill recently specialised in the public sector, designing multiple security functions for the protection of critical information systems, information availability, retention and redundancy.

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