In-Depth

Analysis: The Storage Management Gap

Storage virtualization can address some of the problems associated with getting incompatible physical storage to live together.

In the world of storage solutions, management remains a huge gap in the administration of storage subsystems. It's a challenge to manage storage at any level, because data center hardware growth is typically heterogeneous.

Although many strategies exist to help manage the terabytes, the proprietary solutions available today only rarely interoperate. "To date," says Jon Toigo, an expert on storage management, "the industry has shown only limited interest in making products work together in any sort of coherent management scheme. Until some of the incompatibilities in array controllers and fabric switches are fixed, the success of a storage virtualization strategy in delivering these values may be limited. As with most technologies, try it before you buy it."

Solutions for these incompatible systems range from simple backup, to archives and replication, to single-instancing. But one of the tools that has seen growth is storage virtualization. In fact, more and more products such as SANmelody from DataCore Software Corp. and Network Storage Server from FalconStor Software have been positioned by vendors as virtualization solutions.

BY THE NUMBERS

Banks are into virtualization-big time. So says a survey recently conducted by KRC Research at the behest of Microsoft. "Virtualization in Banking Survey 2008" looked at adoption trends in the banking industry in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

The survey targeted retail banks with assets of more than $25 billion. Among the findings: the majority (58 percent) of large, tier-one banks are implementing various types of virtualization including application, OS, network and presentation approaches. This is being done in production environments not just within lab or test environments.



Two challenges are involved in virtualization for management advantage. First, data-center managers must be committed to managing the data itself. No hardware or appliance-based storage management solution can do the job without policy decisions classifying and prioritizing data as mission- or business-critical.

Second, managers must examine product claims carefully. Storage virtualization has been slower to acceptance because of the uncertainty arising from competing claims of reliability, ease of use and results. The purchasing process can suffer from all the complexity that virtualization is supposed to minimize.

When these problems can be dealt with effectively, storage virtualization provides many advantages. When used as part of a data-management plan, it permits the pooling of physical resources into fewer or even single resources. This by itself reduces complexity. Storage virtualization also automates many time-consuming tasks. Policy-driven virtualization tools mean less work for staff in addressing alarms, for example. This kind of automation is an important budgetary consideration, given the lack of storage administrators that now exists.

A third advantage is it can be used to disguise the overall complexity of the infrastructure. This helps many businesses that have implemented tiered storage (also known as Information Lifecycle Management) in the second- and third-tier environments of backup, recovery and archiving.

About the Author

Mark Ferelli is a freelance technology writer.

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