Guest Column | July 23, 2009

A Profitable Storage Strategy


Written by: By Randy Cochran, vice presidentVP of Channel Sales for the Americas, Symantec Corp.

Never before have solution providers had a better opportunity to help their customers control costs by making the storage those customers already own into a more flexible and efficient solution. A variety of innovative technologies can significantly reduce storage costs, enabling solutions providers to guide their customers toward best practices that will drive immediate return on their existing investments — or what we now refer to as ROY (return on yesterday).

These tools couldn’t have come at a better time. Customers now have an unprecedented amount of data to manage, and those volumes will continue to grow more rapidly next year. Needless to say, without the support of a trusted partner and a powerful set of tools, accommodating such growth while also controlling costs would be virtually impossible.

There are four key actions that solution providers can take to enable customers to maximize the storage space they already have in place and, in turn, increase the efficiency of their infrastructure as well as their operations. These include:
  1. Identifying unused capacity in order to improve their storage utilization
  2. Allocating new storage more intelligently to avoid over provisioning
  3. Eliminating duplicate data to reduce the amount of storage needed
  4. Archiving only relevant content to control archive storage costs
An Accurate Storage Map
Chances are your customers instinctively know that somewhere in their environment is unused storage capacity that could serve as a very timely solution not only to their storage needs but their cost-cutting strategies. After all, if an array is only 50% utilized, then they are paying twice as much for the storage needed. Idle capacity also consumes power, increases cooling costs, takes up valuable floor space, and requires costly maintenance.

Underutilized storage is not uncommon. In fact, a recent InfoPro survey reported that the average organization operates at only 35% utilization. Why? Because to accurately allocate storage you must have visibility into resource consumption. Organizations must be able to accurately track the availability and usage of resources and see current and historical disk usage. Without this information, storage allocation and storage consumption will be out of synch.

Today’s storage resource management tools will help address these issues. These tools enable organizations to discover and see how applications map to the resources they consume, identify potential bottlenecks or failure points, pinpoint incorrect storage configurations that result in orphaned storage, reclaim unused storage, and, ultimately, avoid unnecessary storage purchases.

Less is More
Traditionally, customers allocate more storage than needed to accommodate new applications. Today, many of these organizations are turning to thin provisioning, which allows them to allocate storage as it is needed instead of as a lump sum.

Where customers can run into trouble is in doing the actual migration from thick to thin, and then keeping their thin storage thin over time. Indeed, with many current solutions, implementing thin provisioning risks system downtime and can require significant manual effort to clean up after the process and reclaim empty space. Traditional thin provisioning arrays can also fall short of meeting customer needs because they typically do not have the intelligence about what data the server and applications are actually using and therefore storage does not stay thin.

To help customers avoid these roadblocks, partners can leverage emerging cross-platform thin-friendly technologies that optimize thin storage during migrations, automatically cleaning up and reclaiming vacated space, and then ensuring that thin volumes stay thin over time by linking the thin volume management to a thin-aware storage file system. The result? Measurable improvements in storage utilization.

Once is Enough
Virtually all customers face the challenge of having increasing amounts of data to manage. Yet, in this highly connected, data-driven world, information is vital and its growth must be accommodated. But when customers save multiple copies or revisions of the same spreadsheet or word document where the data is 95% the same between version, they are not only wasting valuable space but they are also likely consuming precious bandwidth as they back up redundant data time after time.

Partners can help their customers avoid wasteful consumption with data deduplication. This technology divides individual chunks of data into smaller segments that can be placed in available disk space. With this segment-level deduplication, should your customer have 10 different files containing a certain segment, only one copy of that segment is backed up and stored. And deduplicating data can produce significant results, in some cases reducing data backup volume by as much as 90% and backup bandwidth by 97%.

Better yet, deduplication solutions are becoming available and customers have more choice in how they implement this technology. Software-based deduplication solutions offered as part of a backup solution allow for more customization. With such a software solution, customers can also leverage the various features of their backup software.

The Right Stuff
Intelligent archiving is the last of our four recommended solutions for helping customers maximize their storage investments. With a wide range of content entering a business every day, not all of that content needs to be archived. Junk mail and spam can clog inboxes and add no value to the business. Confidential business email, on the other hand, is critical and should be saved according to retention and expiry policies.

Intelligent archiving allows customers to shape their archive and retain only relevant content with context. Content is classified into types — with the most advanced archiving systems typically offering a variety of classification options, from automated classification to user-driven or third-party classification — and policy enforcement is applied so that the various classes of information are kept only as long as they are needed. What’s more, customers can then use tiered storage, where less frequently used or less important files are moved from high-cost disk to lower cost storage.

As with all of these storage options, intelligent archiving produces results, with some organizations reducing the amount of data in tier one storage by 70% and reducing overall storage costs by 40%.

In Conclusion
As customers continue to look for ways to control costs while accommodating explosive data growth, partners can truly add value by providing solutions that enable them to become more efficient and provident. By leveraging storage resource management, thin provisioning, data deduplication, and intelligent archiving, customers can optimize existing assets and improve their storage cost profile while greatly improving their ROY.

Randy Cochran is VP of Americas Channel Sales for Symantec.