Capacity Efficiency - Create Sustainable Storage and Mitigate Rising Costs

11/27/2012 9:22:17 AM

According to HDS, the future of information management is wholly dependent on new storage management systems.

Over the past few decades, rapid advancements in disk drive technology have created a year-over-year price erosion of about 10 to 15 percent in disk media costs. The affordable pricing certainly made it easier for many enterprises to buy new disks rather than maintain old ones.

However, due to manufacturing and supply shortages following the catastrophic floods in Thailand last year, hard disk prices have now increased for the first time ever by as much as 5 to 15 percent. Gartner predicts that disk prices will continue to increase his year (even higher to 20-percent) and IDC anticipates the shortage will continue to affect the industry into 2013.

Description: According to HDS, the future of information management is wholly dependent on new storage management systems.

According to HDS, the future of information management is wholly dependent on new storage management systems.

Whether this price surge is just a short term anomaly or a long term reality as manufacturers rebuild their production facilities and invest in next- generation disk technologies, one thing is for certain: it is creating new cost burdens for data centres.

Indeed, even when disk prices were going down, IT managers faced a long list of cost challenges due to the rapid growth of data and the need to acquire new storage devices. They also had to constantly struggle to maintain rapidly-increasing storage islands made up of multi-vendor hardware and software, control the demands for expanding floor space as well as reduce power and cooling costs.

Description: Hitachi data systems

Hitachi data systems

Capitalise storage assets

Although storage costs are spiralling upwards for many organisations, it's an interesting fact that the scale of company's storage, often than not, doesn't match its actual consumption. In most cases, businesses use only 30-percent of their storage capacity while the remaining amount idly sits in there and does nothing. What are the implications of this phenomenon? For a start, it means there's still plenty of room for growth and resource utilisation in existing storage capacity.

More importantly, it means the organisation needn't suffer from rising prices. Instead of acquiring expensive new media, they can instead focus on capitalising their existing storage assets to enhance storage utilization, enable higher Capacity Efficiency (CE) and achieve a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Achieve better CE

To generate a high level of CE requires maximising storage in two key aspects: allocation efficiency and utilisation efficiency. The former involves eliminating the waste of over-allocation, while the latter is about using the available storage space in an efficient manner, so as to reduce costs and increase performance and availability.

Intuitive allocation

The over-allocation of disk resources is a common practice for many IT personnel. They usually allocate capacity beyond users' requests and keep 10 to 15 copies of all stored data in order to ensure server storage level do not unexpectedly run out. However, this over-allocation can be eliminated by using thin provisioning, where you provide virtual space for the requested allocation and only provision the capacity that is being used. This approach also helps to support the APIs for file systems, like VMFS and Symantec types, where it can notify the storage system when files are deleted and re-assign the given allocation elsewhere. By eliminating that section unused space, the capacity and time needed to make copies are reduced. Reduction of copies can be made with copy-on-write so that only the new changes are replicated.

Better utilisation

Placement of data should be based on the appropriate tier of storage, frequency of access, business values and the cost to purchase storage space. This can be achieved by using an automated tier system that operates on policies that are triggered by specific times or events. There are two types of data automations, namely volume level and page level. However, utilisation efficiency can only be achieved by putting data on the "page level". This is because volume level tiering needs to move the whole volume in all the tiers, which requires significantly more space. Page level tiering, meanwhile, focus on only moving around hot pages around tiers, thus occupying only about 5- to 10-percent of the total volume.

Tweaked storage virtualisation

By far the most important solution to enable CE is the deployment and management of virtualised storage. It extends storage efficiency tools like and thin provisioning to existing storage systems that do not have those capabilities.

With storage virtualisation, you can consolidate all data types - files, content and block storage, for both structured and unstructured data - from internal, external and multivendor storage onto a single storage platform. As all storage assets become a single pool of resources, the automated functions are amplified to the entire storage infrastructure. This makes it easy to reclaim capacity and maximise utilisation, and even re-purpose existing assets to extend usage. In doing so, it significantly enhances your IT agility and capacity efficiency to meet unstructured data growth.

Description: Barry Whyte - An exchange and discussion of Storage Virtualization

Barry Whyte - An exchange and discussion of Storage Virtualization

Storage virtualisation also offers the benefit of competitive automated tiering, multi-vendor storage purchasing strategies. With the freedom to move into a virtualised environment, external storage effectively will become a commoditised product. This will allow businesses to design different price-range storage systems for different tiers of storage, giving them the maximum return on their investments as well as granting them the ability to choose the lowest bid where appropriate. More competitive-priced media can also be assigned on mid- and low-tier storage while the high-end disk is used for high-tier storage.

Having gained such abilities, organisations no longer need to worry about upcoming hard disk shortages and price increases. Ultimately, they can flexibly design their long-term storage purchasing strategies according to their specific needs and actual consumption patterns.

Independent storage control console maximises performance with lower costs

To optimise storage performance with the highest efficiency, the ideal storage infrastructure needs to separate disk capacity with an independent storage controller. This is because dynamic page-level tier-ing requires the handling of more meta-data and, as such, needing higher processing power within the storage system. By implementing separate pools of processors to support this expanding function, the efficiency of data mobility can be maximised without impacting the basic I/O performance and throughput.

Another advantage of separating disk capacity from the storage system controllers is the freedom it creates to manage storage media. Disk capacity no longer needs to be refreshed at the same pace as the storage system controllers, which are normally kept current with systems technologies on a three- year cycle. Thus, businesses can prolong the life of existing disk capacity on a five- to seven-year cycle, which can be done according to their specific needs. Since storage media still accounts for the bulk cost of a new storage system, this longer depreciation cycle will significantly reduce capital costs. Additionally, oxrganisations can enjoy multi-vendor purchasing strategies for external storage, thus getting much more competitive prices on mid- and low-tier storage.

Storage infrastructure maximises CE with minimised spending

Rather than buying additional disks to tackle Big Data in this period of rising storage costs, IT decision makers should choose more cost-efficient alternatives to maximise capacity efficiency with storage virtualisation. The right storage solution will help to simplify infrastructure, ensure Quality of Service, reduce risk, and align the right storage tier to the right application thereby reducing operation and capital expenditures.

It is now critical that companies not only free up the capacity they need today from existing storage assets but also position their business for sustainable growth long into the future.

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