Storage association suggests utility approach to data

TORONTO — Enterprise users need to think of storage from a utility approach or delivering a “data tone” enterprise-wide, the chair of the Storage Networking Industry Association end user council said on Tuesday.


invested in writing a strategy and making sure you’re doing the right things more than compensates doing the wrong things over and over,” Laurence Whittaker said in his opening keynote to end users, resellers and vendors attending this year’s SAN/NAS Summit in Toronto.

Toronto-based SNIA Canada, which officially launched in October 2004, was promoted at last year’s SAN/NAS Summit and is working towards establishing chapters in Vancouver and Montreal. Established in 1998, SNIA, which has between 400 to 500 vendors, is a not-for-profit organization that aims to advance the adoption of storage networks via standards, education and services to push open storage networking solutions into the broader market.

Whittaker, also supervisor of enterprise storage management at Hudson’s Bay Company, outlined a four-step strategy for building the storage utility in an open systems environment that offers similar benefits as mainframe technology. “Mainframes are pretty much near perfect storage,” said Whittaker, adding that the benefits include ease of access and the ability to share out to a number of applications.

Levels include aggregate storage like storage area network (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS), management, optimization and policy-based automation. On top of that, there additional layers such as security, virtualization and storage management initiative specificaion (SMI-S).

Whittaker said one of the key drivers behind the storage market today is the need for effective management. “Companies need to reconcile the cost of storage and the cost of management,” he said, adding that through an information lifecycle management (ILM) strategy, end users can increase the value of their data and drive down their company’s storage spend.

ILM is something end users are starting to become aware of, said David Bowen, vice-president of engineering at TSI Learning, which sits on SNIA’s board and is part of the organization’s certification program. SNIA’s Storage Networking Certification Program (SNCP) consists of four certifications: concepts, standards, solutions and product domains.

“Having a policy in place is still a black art to a lot of people,” said Bowen, who also attended this year’s conference. Bowen added users need to identify their ILM requirements, their business continuity needs and short and long-term growth plans.

Using Storagetek’s three-tiered definition of ILM as a backdrop, Whittaker said the handing off of information from the data classification tier to the storage management tier needs to be open standards-based. “We don’t want vendor lock-in,” he said. “We want to be able to pick the components to manage the storage management layer.”

Getting different vendors’ products to interface with one another, however, is an ongoing problem organizations have to face, said Bowen. “There will always be issues with interfaces between firmware and software,” he said. “Whether it’s a storage or network problem, it will always exist.”

Increased productivity is another key contributor to the growing demand for storage in the Canadian market today, according to IDC Canada. “People are now looking at storage as an important part of driving productivity within their businesses,” said Vasu Daggupaty, research analyst at IDC Canada in Toronto. “Previously it was seen as some place to dump your storage.”

In 2004, storage revenues in Canada accounted for US $812 million, or roughly US$200 million a quarter in factory revenue or products outgoing from manufacturers, according to IDC Canada. Direct attached storage (DAS) still accounted for the bulk of the market last year at US$450 million, with storage area networking (SAN) at US$275 million and network attached storage (NAS) at US$55 million.

“SAN is gaining because it’s coming down in price and NAS is the new technology that everyone’s excited about,” said Daggupaty. “As infrastructure needs to get refreshed everyone will be looking at evaluating NAS solutions. If they feel that a NAS solution is outside of their price point or it doesn’t fit what their infrastructure is like they’ll probably move to a SAN at the very least.”

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