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Virtual SAN service opportunities for SMBs

The SMB market is finally at a point where implementing SANs makes sense. Resellers have the opportunity to sell iSCSI SANs to ensure their customer's storage is current and best suited for the job.

Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have for some years largely missed out on storage area networks (SAN) and storage virtualization advantages due to high costs, including the upfront costs of outfitting their environments with new Fibre Channel network infrastructures, as well as the costs of educating or hiring personnel to manage the new networks. As iSCSI storage and virtualization offerings become more widely available, the SMB market can now benefit from SANs while resellers like yourself can take advantage of iSCSI virtualization service opportunities using clustered SAN products, such as LeftHand Networks' SAN/iQ, the EqualLogic PS Series or Isilon Systems IQ Series.

Just-in-time storage services

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One such opportunity is for "just-in-time" storage services. SMBs have less ability to purchase large amounts of storage for a rainy day. Being able to provision just enough storage for their current environments plus some small amount for short-term growth is extremely important. With the iSCSI clustered storage products available, you can help customers determine their current data storage needs, then enable them to easily add iSCSI SAN storage on an ongoing basis, as needed. The clustered storage products use virtualization to present a unified view of the multiple storage modules to the hosts. When more storage is needed, another module is simply added to the network. The cluster software can automatically add the new module to the existing cluster and grow the amount of storage available with little-to-no involvement from an administrator.

Data protection services

Another opportunity with clustered iSCSI storage is in data protection services, including backup and recovery, archival and disaster recovery. Clustered storage provides the speed and flexibility of disk-to-disk data transfers with the added benefits of improved reliability of data on the cluster. Due to the fact that clustered storage spreads data across the storage modules, all single points of failure can be eliminated. Additionally, the storage modules can be placed anywhere on an IP network to protect the storage from events that may affect one location, such as power or cooling failures, fire, or "tripped-over-the-plug" accidents.

With some of the larger SMB companies looking to consolidate their IT infrastructures using server, desktop and application virtualization, comes the requirement to have a shared storage solution, whether it be a SAN or network-attached storage (NAS). For companies that do not already have a Fibre Channel SAN infrastructure in place, a clustered iSCSI SAN provides a cost effective, flexible way to implement virtualization throughout their companies. These clustered storage solutions create an abstraction layer to the virtual servers, desktops and applications to insulate them from underlying storage management, such as backup and recovery, data migration, hardware upgrades or adding capacity, while providing continuous access to the data, independent of the server, desktop or application environment location on the network.

Whether as a channel professional you choose to sell these capabilities to your customers or provide them as services, iSCSI clustered storage will provide value to your SMBs.

About the Author: Anne Skamarock has been involved with computers and associated technology for nearly 30 years. She started her career as a software engineer developing custom scientific codes and as a UNIX systems administrator. She moved over to the systems vendor side and has worked as a software engineer, technical sales, marketing and management for both large and start-up systems and storage companies such as SRI, International, Sun Microsystems, Solbourne Computer, and StorageTek. For the past seven years, Anne has worked as a market analyst focusing on the convergence points around systems, storage, and software. Anne has published extensively including regular columns and tips for TechTarget's and Network World, and numerous business and technical white papers. She has recently finished her second book as co-author of Blades and Virtualization: Transforming Enterprise Computing While Cutting Costs.

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