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Your Storage Has To Do More With Less, Too

Sick of the phrase "Do more with less"? How about putting the pressure on your storage system? If you have to do more with less, it should at least carry some of the responsibility.
Sick of the phrase "Do more with less"? How about putting the pressure on your storage system? If you have to do more with less, it should at least carry some of the responsibility.This means that storage systems have to become easier to use, easier to scale, and smarter about managing storage. The first step in the process is virtualization. LUN design, while possibly a valuable skill, just doesn't scale into the do more with less model. Storage virtualization allows you to just create capacity and then let the storage system manage where to put the data. Virtualization can be the core capability of a new system like those offered by 3Par, Compellent, or Xiotech, and virtualization can also be added to your existing storage by using an appliance like those offered by NetApp or DataCore.

While there may be some concern about losing performance because you can't fine-tune the LUN to the existing needs of your database, in tests that I have seen virtualized systems outperformed nonvirtualized systems and did so with less fine-tuning and at a cheaper price point.

Virtualized storage also is a key enabler to true thin provisioning. While many vendors have jumped on the thin-provisioning bandwagon, in most cases they are really using more of an automated volume growth, which still wastes disk capacity. As thin provisioning matures, we are seeing vendors like 3Par and Symantec develop a 2.0 set of capabilities which includes the ability to reclaim disk space. Without reclamation, thin-provisioned volumes can "give back" their disk space when files are deleted from them.

Beyond virtualization, storage has to become more intelligent. For example, domains of storage should have the ability to be created so the management of different sub-sections of that storage can be managed by separate individuals, as we discuss in our article on "Virtual Domains." These virtual domains allow for delegation of the storage management process without compromising the integrity of the overall storage system.

The real key is automation; storage needs to have the intelligence to respond to the demands of the business. In a do more with less world, asking the business to wait while the storage manager stops to design LUNs, tries to find capacity, or becomes the single point of bottleneck in deployment is no longer acceptable, but then neither is asking a single storage manager to respond to the needs of today's business with 10-year-old storage management techniques.

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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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