With a multitude of data storage devices spanning the typical company, ensuring access can be difficult, backups are typically less than seamless and taking full advantage of storage capacities often remains impossible.
To overcome this storage vendors are working on technology known as storage virtualisation, which promises to offer a means of addressing storage functionally rather than physically.
Massachusetts-based Compaq storage specialist Chet Jacobs says 12 months down the line Compaq will deliver the ability to create “virtual disks” from physical storage disks across the organisation. These virtual disks, encompassing different capacities and data protection levels, will have the ability to include disks from other storage providers.
“[IT staff] will be able to build RAIDs [redundant array of independent disks] across controller sets and across other vendor’s hardware,” says Jacobs, who as a technician with Digital Equipment helped create DLT tape storage technology in the early 90s.
Jacobs says in four months Compaq will deliver the ability to incorporate first IBM's hardware, followed by EMC's and then Hitachi's, into Compaq storage area networks. Standards for this type of cross-vendor environment are being developed under the SNIA (storage network industry association) consortium, of which Compaq is a member.
Asked why EMC, IBM and Hitachi dominate the high-end storage market, Jacobs says Compaq has not been good at marketing its storage solutions, which it gained through the acquisition of Digital in 1998. Jacobs also believes Compaq’s modular approach keeps costs down but lower cost is seen as lower value. He cites Gartner Group report, SAN Solution Magic Quadrant, released in February, which says “Compaq has best exhibited efforts to drive solutions towards SANs that will accept components, including storage from other vendors". It notes that although other vendors may better Compaq in specific areas, it has high scores in several categories of analysis.
Jacobs also says organisations wanting to take the first step towards a SAN might find that backup is a logical place to start. “One of the easiest ways to get into the SAN is to start with tape drives and do backup on it. Then as the data centre grows you can add the hard disk environment."
Worldwide, customers using Compaq StoreWorks storage include Alta Vista, AOL, Lycos and Deutsche Bank. The Open Polytechnic, New Zealand Dairy Group and Kiwi Co-operative Dairies which are merging to become Global Dairy Co are also StorageWorks sites.