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Demand for storage remains ?virtually insatiable?

Before heading into the deep waters of ILM, virtualisation et al, it?s worth listening to Peter van Oppen?s common sense thoughts on security and, in particular, where the real problem will always lie.

 

Date: 1 Sep 2005

He explains: ?The IT industry will always need to keep adjusting and improving its approach to security as the amount of data grows and the nature of the threat changes. Encryption will certainly play a part in the solution - both hardware and software approaches have their advantages and limitations - but the real issue is the total environment, and the biggest point of vulnerability continues to be the human interface. Thus it is that van Oppen concludes: ?The best approach will of necessity involve security procedures and access control policies along with technical solutions.?

A similar theme of continuous evolvement can be found in van Oppen?s approach to ILM. ?When the tools and processes are all in place, ILM will let IT departments deal with different classes of data in different ways based on a broad variety of business needs - including economics, access times, levels of protection needed, and periods of retention. Parts of the capability are available today, but its ultimate form will develop over time and among different vendors.? He adds: ?ADIC?s StorNext data management software, which provides file sharing and policy-based migration, is designed to provide a foundation for ILM systems that will also use a variety of application-aware and business-aware tools as well.?

Compliance, however, is something that cannot be so neatly addressed, according to van Oppen, who quite rightly points out: ??Compliancy? looks like a single word, but in fact it refers to a host of different requirements that vary by industry and region. In some areas, meeting new regulations for data retention and access will mean very significant changes in a number of areas that include, but that by no means are limited to, storage.? In other words, although the storage industry talks generically about regulation and compliance, there is no one size fits all solution, and end users would do well to remember this when looking for help in this area.

When it is suggested to van Oppen that virtualisation is now finally delivering, and seems to be key to the successful implementation/development of many storage networking installations and is allowing more intelligence to be built into hardware, lessening the ever growing software stack, he responds enthusiastically: ??You are right. The idea of virtualization is indeed one of the constant and powerful forces in IT, and it continues to spread rapidly as suppliers build software technology into their hardware platforms to make them provide more management value and allow users to accomplish more with their existing resources.

?ADIC?s own Pathlight VX disk backup solution is a perfect example. We build software technology into our hardware-based system to make a combined disk-tape environment provide the benefits of both technologies while looking like a single entity to outside applications. It is the kind of complex management job that really must be built in - creating it with separate software would add so much management overhead and complexity that it could easily undermine the value of the solution.?

And we return to virtualisation, when van Oppen comments on the ongoing disk/RAID/tape debate. He says: ?When disk prices drop, it opens up new options for data protection. ADIC?s Pathlight VX disk backup solutions, for example, which use the capacity ATA disk as part of a backup system, were really made practical by the reduction in disk prices. But it?s a little more complex than that. For even modestly large data sets, cheap disk isn?t a solution all by itself anymore than a single tape drive is, and the real cost of disk storage systems remains several multiples higher than tape and that situation does not look as if it is going to change in the foreseeable future.

?Your very good earlier question about virtualization is germane here too: truly useful systems with the kinds of protection that the value of the data (and the force of all those new regulations!) require, are the ones that build in management, redundancy, and virtualization - critical features that change the economic equation significantly. We, and virtually all the industry analysts, believe that the economics, long term retention support, portability, and security of tape will all continue to play a critical role in enterprise data protection for the foreseeable future. Since disk will also play an increasingly important role, the key issue will be creating systems that take advantage of both. This is what ADIC is doing with its products.?

Discussion on storage management has van Oppen reinforcing his view about the importance of in-built solutions. ?The value of existing storage management software will increase dramatically. I can give one concrete example that will prove my point. A couple of years ago, ADIC introduced a new tape library architecture that put all the library management software - the ones that traditionally run outside the library on a separate server - inside the library. The results? One is that users avoid buying and managing separate software so they save money and trouble. But the much more important result was how much better it works! Because when you build software into the system, you can do more and do it much more effectively.

?In our Scalar i2000, the first of our libraries to include this ?iLayer? management, small issues are solved before they become large problems, performance is increased, security is enhanced, and reliability is boosted. We reduced the need for service calls by 50%, and customers tell us we are calling them with solutions before they even knew they had a problem. This approach is also making it easy for us to integrate library management with SRM tools like EMC?s Control Center to make life much easier for IT departments.?

Van Oppen also believes that the advent of smarter storage management tools may have an influence on the growing managed storage services market, as he explains: ?The managed storage services model is likely to become more important, but I wouldn?t be so quick to make the assumption that it will take over. A few years ago, many people predicted that this model would dominate, and they have so far not been correct. There are so many countervailing forces at work here that it?s hard to make a good prediction. Companies have shown themselves to be reluctant to let their data completely out of their control?and concerns about security, retention, and compliance are not likely to reduce that issue in importance. Long distance bandwidth has proven more expensive than many thought it would be. And the improvements in storage systems and SRM software are making it relatively easy for even smaller organizations, with the help of resellers and vendors, to manage their data without having to create unwieldy staffing levels.?

One other topic van Oppen is keen to highlight is archiving. ?As data growth continues, and the importance of long term retention and access to digital assets increases, we expect to see an increased importance placed on the idea of archiving. The word ?archive? means several things - off-site long term storage of backup data for disaster recovery, near-line storage of fixed data for reference purposes, and the protection of assets against change for reasons of compliancy. This is another area where new technologies and new approaches will greatly expand the options that IT departments will be able to take advantage of.?

Van Oppen believes that the storage networking industry has made great strides in terms of standards, citing an ADIC/EMC example to illustrate his point. ?When we worked with EMC to make sure that its SRM software customers could manage ADIC tape libraries using the same tools they use for disk systems, we both decided that the right way to do that was to leverage the SNIA?s SMI-S standard. That?s what we did, and today IT departments can use EMC?s Control Center software to manage all their ADIC Scalar i2000 tape libraries - wherever they are located around the world -from one screen, right along with their disk arrays, backup software, and SAN infrastructure. Bringing tape and backup into the managed storage environment is a wonderful example of using standards to provide innovation that make the practical work of IT departments easier and more effective.?

In concluding, van Oppen offers two important insights into how the storage networking market might continue to evolve. Firstly, his thoughts on the vendor community: ?I think that the future looks extremely good for independent storage vendors, and I emphatically include ADIC in that number. General purpose system OEMs are great at delivering product sets once the technologies are mature, but practical innovations usually come from the independent storage specialists. As an example, one analyst firm warned its customers to expect less investment in tape and libraries from StorageTek after it becomes part of Sun and to look at the company?s roadmap with some scepticism. As an independent supplier, ADIC intends to keep innovating in our library and data protection business, and we think we will become an even stronger force in the market.?

Secondly, his belief that exciting times lie ahead for the industry: ?The storage industry, and especially the large-scale, storage network portion of it, remains perhaps the single most exciting part of the entire IT arena. The demand for storage remains virtually insatiable. Storage has added new technologies and architectures far faster than the server and platform part of the industry. And storage is an area where innovation has the largest opportunity to make tremendous positive changes in the way that IT departments serve their customers and businesses. And the most exciting gains we are likely to see will come, not from the broad commodity portion of the industry, but from independent suppliers of high value-add products that combine software and hardware to solve the hard problems that our customers face.?

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Tags: Cloud Storage, Compliance, Deduplication, Disk/RAID/Tape/SSDs, Tiered Storage

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