You no doubt have been hearing a lot this year about the need for greater storage efficiency in corporate data centers. Your customers have been told too many times that they have to do more with less. (This, of course, implies that there was a time where they could do less with more, but that's another story.) And now they're being asked once again to tighten the screws and do more with less, probably with greater intensity than ever before. Your job is to help them in this mandate.
There are two basic approaches to helping your customers increase their storage efficiency. The first approach focuses on the cap-ex side of things: improving the utilization of their current or future equipment. The second approach focuses on the op-ex side: managing that storage more efficiently.
Sometimes, doing more with less essentially means doing more with the same. That's basically what most storage efficiency applications do -- allow customers to store more data in the same amount of space. Initially, space optimization tools focused on backup data, but then they quickly moved up the storage food chain rather quickly Archive solutions from Permabit, Nexsan and EMC offer deduplication of archive data. Now data reduction capabilities are beginning to creep their way into primary storage, via inline compression solutions like those from Storwize or primary storage deduplication solutions from Ocarina Networks, EMC (on Celerra) or NetApp.
As deduplication moves beyond backup, data type becomes more important; it will have a greater effect on the amount of space to be saved and the performance impact from the deduplication process. As a result, you should carefully consider the applications in use before recommending a particular space optimization technique -- dedupe might not be the answer. And remember that the space savings gained from deduplication depends on redundant data, and there's less of it on primary storage than in backup data. So on primary storage, compression, like that offered by Ocarina, EMC and Storwize, may deliver better space savings. Also, write-heavy applications can cause deduplication to have a negative impact on primary storage performance.
By knowing the customer's environment and which storage space optimization technique will deliver the best return on investment in a particular environment you can add tremendous value. Your customers will be able to store more data without buying additional capacity.
In fact, the space savings -- and consolidation and storage efficiency afforded by it -- may be so great that entire shelves of storage hardware could be turned off, allowing the customer to store more data with lower power utilization -- an op-ex savings. It's a big professional services-laden project, and there are customers desperate for it. If a customer can't get more power run into their facility, they have no choice but to do it.
About the author
George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the United States, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, George was chief technology officer at one of the nation's largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.