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Storage Consolidation, The Foundation

As a business grows and the demands on IT increase, there comes a point where the young data center has to consider such initiatives as server virtualization, advanced backup software, disk-to-disk backup, and deployment of its first SAN or NAS. Storage consolidation via a networked storage solution (be it SAN, NAS, or both) provides a foundation for those other early initiatives and is a logical first step.
As a business grows and the demands on IT increase, there comes a point where the young data center has to consider such initiatives as server virtualization, advanced backup software, disk-to-disk backup, and deployment of its first SAN or NAS. Storage consolidation via a networked storage solution (be it SAN, NAS, or both) provides a foundation for those other early initiatives and is a logical first step.Consolidated storage as a data protection aid

One of the biggest challenges facing most backup solutions today is the requirement to move a fairly large amount of data across the IP network and to do so in a relatively short period of time. Most if not all network-based arrays have the ability to create snapshots. This allows you to present an image of the volume to a backup server and perform an off-host backup of that data. This can reduce the amount of pressure needed to select and implement both a new backup software application and disk-to-disk backup. A consolidated storage platform shouldn't replace either of these initiatives but can provide more time to make the selection and enhance those applications when they're selected.

Most consolidated storage solutions also provide the ability to replicate changed blocks to another facility providing DR functionality. While not a complete solution because you have to plan on how to bring those servers and users online in the disaster site, it's another key foundation, and a large part of the battle is getting the data out of the facility.

Consolidated storage as a virtualization aid

Consolidated storage also is a key foundation for server virtualization and enables capabilities like virtual server movement, what Virtual Iron calls LiveMigration and VMware calls VMotion. The ability to move virtual machines between physical virtual machines requires network storage. Server virtualization solutions also rely on consolidated storage-replication capabilities to enable their DR solutions.

Consolidate storage for storage management

A consolidated storage solution can improve storage resource management, and while it certainly improves on what can be done as compared with standalone storage, it wasn't until storage virtualization that significant progress was made in the provisioning and management of storage. Virtualized consolidated storage makes the provisioning of consolidated storage significantly easier and faster. By enabling simplified volume provisioning, companies like Compellent and Lefthand Networks are making consolidated storage solutions available to a broader audience. Add to that Compellent's Thin Provisioning capabilities as outlined in a prior entry and the value of these solutions increases significantly.

Consolidated storage is the logical first step for a growing data center. As to how to select the right solution for your data center, stay tuned...

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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