On Demand Storage: Vendors Speak Out

Vendors find that the future of enterprise storage systems hinges on open architectures and standards as capacities skyrocket and effective management is undermined by complex, proprietary technologies.
Posted September 28, 2004

Drew Robb

Drew Robb

Some call it On Demand Storage, some call it the On Demand Enterprise. Other terms are Utility Computing, N1, Autonomic Storage, and the Adaptive Enterprise. Whichever label prevails, the basic idea is to offer storage as a service much the same way you deal with your utilities.

You use the service, pay for what you use, and leave the supplier to deal with the behind the scenes technology. If the service isn't there when you want it, you scream or change suppliers.

''Organizations should have one bill for storage infrastructure,'' said Mark Barrenechea, senior vice president of product development at Computer Associates. ''Instead of wasting money by retaining poorly utilized systems, a better model is to only pay for what you use.''

CA's solution is the On Demand Enterprise. Whether IT is outsourced, or available from an in-house IT department, storage and computing resources would be made available on an as needed basis, and billed accordingly. Such a vision, though, requires a complete rethink of business processes and a high degree of automation.

''Whatever you call it, the general idea is to increase the value of the work done by your storage personnel by eliminating all the manual entry they must endure today,'' said Mike Karp, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates.

Last year alone, over five Exabytes of data were stored worldwide. This equates to 500,000 times the amount of data that exists in the Library of Congress. Thus, even in enterprises where the old manual storage processes aren't already broken, steady growth in capacity will make it a severe problem very soon.

Jens Tiedeman, IBM's vice president of storage software believes we are at a crossroads. Despite all the grandiose vendor plans and announcements, we still can't easily manage and build a heterogeneous SAN. Maximizing the utilization of physical assets continues to be difficult. Multiple file systems cannot share data and must be managed separately. Managing data is a burden as each component has a unique interface. Even installation and basic storage configuration can still be a nightmare.

''There is no common way to view and manage the environment so storage management is a real pain,'' said Tiedman. ''Virtualize? I can't even visualize it.''

He makes the analogy of telephone systems in the 1930's. The phone companies observed almost exponential growth in the number of calls -- much like storage growth will be over the next decade. Forecasts indicated that by 1980, telecom would need 100 million switch operators. Similarly, in a few decades, storage will need 30 million storage administrators if manual processes remain.

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com. To read the full article, click here.

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