Storage critical issue for business

Storage is becoming the lifeblood of the organisation, according to Sydney-based IDC analyst Graham Penn.

Storage is becoming the lifeblood of the organisation, according to Sydney-based IDC analyst Graham Penn.

Speaking at an IDC storage conference in Auckland yesterday, Penn said the design, implementation and management of storage resources, though complex, is critical.

He says top-of-mind challenges for IT managers are to align IT objectives with business objectives, maximise availability and optimise performance, manage increasing complexity, minimise ongoing costs and business risk, integrate the management of multiple platforms and use data intelligently.

Penn says there is a continuing shift from direct-attached storage, whereby data storage is located on the server, to networked storage where data is stored on specialised servers attached to the network. This is aided by increasing bandwidth supply because bandwidth and capacity costs continue to reduce, and reduced total cost of ownership as network storage software gains functionality.

Storage area networks (SANs), specialised networks devoted to storage, will make up 52% of New Zealand's external disk storage systems revenue in 2005, while network-attached storage (NAS), dedicated storage devices attached to the network, will total 33%, IDC says. New storage trends include the tighter integration of storage networks and applications, virtualisation whereby distributed storage components are managed as one disk, linking of local storage networks into distributed networks, policy-based storage and network management, and the growth of storage service providers.

While organisations used to store data on the server, the new trend is to bring it closer to the end-user, says IDC. At the same time we are seeing the introduction of "task specific" devices to optimise network performance and efficiency.

This is happening against the usual backdrop of differing network protocols, network hardware from multiple vendors which isn't necessarily interoperable, operating systems with unique file formats and still-in-development standards for new technology such as iSCSI.

According to Penn all vendors realise that software is the differentiator and hardware is becoming a decreasing piece of the total storage cost. "When it comes to storage most vendors are on an 'elevator'. They're either moving down from the high-end or up from the low-end. That means customers need to know their agenda."

Large diversified companies (such as EMC, IBM, Hitachi and Compaq) are positioning themselves as "software vendors" able to manage their comprehensive storage solutions. Meanwhile, established companies in one domain -- for example, networking giant Cisco -- are moving into the storage arena. Other companies are forming alliances as they seek a full-spectrum product portfolio.

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