Has Storage Technology Become Stagnant?
Storage vendors discuss how emerging storage technologies are leading to new VAR sales opportunities.
Storage technologies get a bad rap at times. For instance, because
disk and tape are mature technologies and not as glamorous as RFID
(radio frequency identification), VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol),
or wireless technologies, they are sometimes referred to as stagnant.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. In addition to a host of new
features and improved “feeds and speeds,” some of the technologies are
changing roles as well. For instance, disk and tape, once positioned
against each other as data backup solutions, are now working in concert
to provide all-in-one, disk-to-disk-to-tape storage solutions. There
are other examples of emerging storage technologies such as solid-state
disk, removable disk-based backup storage, and protocols such as eSATA
(external serial ATA) and SAS (serial-attached small computer system
interface). We convened a quorum of storage industry experts to help
VARs identify and leverage some of those emerging storage technologies.
Sell Serial-Based Storage Solutions
“The latest storage products are all moving toward serial interface technology,” explains Lorne Wilson, senior VP of sales and marketing for Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Inc. “This includes SATA for 2.5-inch mobile hard disk drives and SAS for enterprise-class products. The benefits of serial technology include performance, flexibility, scalability, and reliability.” Another benefit in some cases is a lower cost than traditional SCSI (small computer system interface) drives.
Those aren’t the only emerging serial storage products. There’s eSATA, an adaptation of the SATA interface. eSATA allows the connection of external disk storage to a computer using an eSATA interface. The technology benefit is performance increases of up to five times when compared to FireWire 1394 and Hi-Speed USB. External disk storage also eliminates the challenges associated with installing mass storage inside of PCs. A 500 GB eSATA drive from Seagate sells at a street price of around $300, making it a great solution for SMB customers.
Positioned as an eventual replacement for SCSI, SAS is becoming a more popular choice for primary storage systems. Because SAS uses the SCSI command set, there is little (or no) training required for VARs to transition to SAS. A basic understanding of SCSI technology will be enough to have VARs installing SAS systems immediately. System builders can use the same enclosures for SAS as they did for SCSI, simply by changing the SCSI interface card (or backplane) to SAS.
Help Customers Solve The Persistent Data Problem
Persistent data is information that goes from a high frequency of access to a lower frequency of access over time. This challenge is forcing customers to look at new ways of managing information. “Persistent data is estimated to be 70% of business data, yet is most often improperly stored as transactional or vaulted data,” says Morrie Nelson, VP of worldwide channel sales for COPAN Systems. “Businesses are finding that using traditional platforms of disk or tape to store persistent data either becomes too costly to deploy or manage, or is simply not efficient or reliable enough to meet various RPO [recovery point objective] or RTO [recovery time objective] goals.”
COPAN addresses this dilemma by combining disk and tape in what is called a MAID (massive array of idle disks) storage platform. MAID operates on the principle that when long-term data is stored on disk, all disks don’t need to spin all the time — and are powered on only when needed. COPAN Systems’ MAID platform provides a persistent data-aware solution that consumes minimal floor space (10 square feet) and holds up to 896 disk drives for 448 TB. The power draw is equivalent to a tape automation system. At an estimated cost of $3.50 per GB, COPAN’s system is priced to compete directly with tape libraries.
Capitalize On Storage Security And Data Protection
Customers are becoming increasingly aware of the risks that hacking attacks, disgruntled employees, human error, loss or theft of hardware, and loss of backup media can pose. With these threats in mind, it is not possible for storage systems to continue to be simple repositories of data. A new breed of secure storage systems is emerging. Those systems safeguard corporate digital assets even when corporate security has been compromised.
VARs should be selling secure storage systems to meet the goals of senior management, IT, and corporate legal departments. Secure storage systems combine secure data encryption, storage management software, clustered servers, and RAID (redundant array of independent disks)-protected hardware. In Nexsan Technologies’ case, the Assureon secure storage system combines those four features to provide multiple levels of data protection. “In a business climate where large organizations find themselves governed by regulatory compliance, data protection laws, and intellectual property rights, the leakage of confidential data not only damages reputations but causes financial repercussions that can run into millions,” explains Brendan Kinkade, VP of marketing for Nexsan Technologies. “Like it or not, this is the future your customers face. They will look to VARs to provide secure storage solutions. Investment in secure storage systems is the only way to be confident that your customer’s business-critical data will never be compromised.”
Understand The Different Types Of RAID Solutions
“The ever-expanding and changing roles of storage networking are creating tremendous opportunities for VARs to add value through consulting, training, installation, and service,” says Tony Hsu, marketing director for Arena-Maxtronic, a company that manufactures RAID storage systems. RAID continues to be a core building block for online primary storage solutions including single server storage, NAS (network attached storage) filers, and departmental and enterprise storage networks.
“VARs should know that RAID is not an off-the-shelf product,” continues Hsu. “They should know their customers’ needs and be familiar with the various feature sets available on the RAID controllers. Some storage configurations can be extremely complicated, and they may require special hardware or software [e.g. clustering solutions]. Do your homework and talk to the vendor’s technical staff before you purchase equipment.”
With the variety of emerging technologies available to VARs, it’s sometimes easy to lose perspective on what the customer really needs. It’s important to remember the business need that is driving your storage project. Let that business need direct you to the correct storage technology — emerging or mature.