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One Storage Solution For Everyone?

There is a dizzying array of storage solutions available to storage managers today. Whether its backup, archive or primary storage there are multiple options available. Many times manufacturers try to position themselves as a single source of storage solutions for a data center. Be careful of this approach, seldom is one manufacturer able to provide best of breed solutions in every product category.
There is a dizzying array of storage solutions available to storage managers today. Whether its backup, archive or primary storage there are multiple options available. Many times manufacturers try to position themselves as a single source of storage solutions for a data center. Be careful of this approach, seldom is one manufacturer able to provide best of breed solutions in every product category.The goal for many manufacturers is to convince you they have the single solution that you need for all your storage needs. The thought being that if you can get to a single storage platform that the job of managing storage will become easier. Its a fair expectation, all storage managed under a single interface should lead to simpler storage management.

The first problem with this concept is that most manufacturers tend to cater to certain size businesses better than businesses of other sizes. There are vendors that cater to the enterprise, those that cater to the small business and those that cater to the mid-sized business.

To address this challenge manufacturers will either come up with scaled up or scaled down products or in some cases may have totally different products. Scaling up or down your solution set works in that the interface is often the same, but you are limited in your range. If you provide an enterprise class storage array it is difficult to have that array scale all the way down to the needs of a small business.

Having separate solutions for different types of business has a broader range of scale but often at the expense of real integration. This is a viable business strategy, especially for larger manufacturers. The most important deliverable is to solve the business need. Integration under a single GUI is secondary.

The big challenge however is lack of ability to focus on multiple storage products. Most storage vendors tend to do one thing real well and then the capabilities of the product decline with each successive product category. For example most manufacturers don't make a great high performance SAN as well as a high performance NAS. Many data centers have correctly established that they need a SAN from one vendor and a NAS from another. Along the same lines a vendor that makes a solid high performance NAS or SAN doesn't tend to make a price competitive solution for applications that just need modest performance and scalability.

Really there is nothing wrong with this scenario. NAS and SAN are the two foundations of primary storage in the data center. It makes sense to get the best one for each job as well as have a third vendor that can supply the general purpose storage. As we discuss in our article "Moving Disk Backup Systems Upstream" many customers are finding that for general purpose storage the disk to disk backup vendor is quickly becoming the best choice.

This logic then flows through to backup technology and archiving strategies. The result is that in the real world data center there will continue to be multiple points of management, an unfortunate reality of a rapidly changing data center that has many purposes to fulfill as well as budgets to keep in line.

At the end of the day, corporate IT has a job to do. There is data to serve, store and protect. There are so many variables involved in the selection process and it is unlikely that any one vendor is ever going to be able to solve everyone's problems. Trying to isolate to a single storage solution or even a single storage vendor is impractical for most data centers.

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

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