Storage Management Software Solutions Remain In High Demand
IT spending has slowed, but not the rate of growth of customer data. Users will continue to turn to VARs for help with managing their storage environments.
The recession that continues to dampen our economy may have been the spark that lit the fire under storage management software. While IT spending remains sluggish across most technologies, storage software continues to be a hot topic of conversation. It seems that when end users curtail storage software spending, the next logical step is to find ways to better use existing storage hardware. Enter storage management software.
"One of the trends we are seeing in the market is a move toward consolidating servers and storage," says Bruce Bacca, founder and CTO of NTP Software (Manchester, NH). "We have seen many companies attempting to aggregate a chaotically distributed storage environment into a larger storage solution such as SANs [storage area networks] or NAS [network attached storage]." There are many possible explanations for the sudden interest in consolidation, but Bacca believes the economic downturn may be the most logical. "For years we had a super-heated economy," he says. "Companies had little time to properly manage their resources. Now that life is moving more slowly, there is more time to manage these devices."
Cost Matters - Especially With SAN And NAS
In an economy where cost is important, users are forced to make only those purchases that make economic sense. Consolidation is a trend that makes sense and is one factor driving the push toward better storage management. When users make a decision to consolidate data into a SAN, they are suddenly buying something that costs enough to matter. "Another NT server might cost $50,000," says Bacca. "But a high-end NAS or SAN solution might start at $100,000 and go into the millions. Senior management will expect its IT staff to properly manage something that costs $1 million."
Although many companies are more sensitive to storage purchases, they are not as sensitive to staffing costs required to implement solutions. "The strategy we see employed most often is often completely backward," says Bacca. "Many companies will consolidate first and manage second. In the course of their consolidation, companies are moving huge amounts of junk data that they will eventually end up deleting. VARs must convince management at these companies that if 30% to 40% of their data is junk, deleting that data before it is moved onto new servers will reduce their time investment by 30% to 40% as well."
Taking A Holistic Approach
Susan Frankle, senior director of corporate marketing at StorageNetworks (Waltham, MA), believes another important trend is users demanding a complete or holistic view of their entire storage environments. "Many software products will just look at a switch, an array, a host, or a specific vendor's equipment," she says. "But those products will not look across the entire environment, which is what customers want to be able to do. Customers need to see their entire storage environment, regardless of the infrastructure, vendor, or whether the storage is direct attached or networked [SAN or NAS]." Frankle believes customers are looking for one application that will enable them to quickly view their entire storage environment. Software solutions will have to provide that holistic view.
The switch many customers are making from direct attached storage to SAN and NAS has created the need for an end-to-end storage management product. The overall growth of storage environments and their importance to IT as a whole has been another driver. "Storage used to be a peripheral that was controlled by the host," says Frankle. "But the storage infrastructure has grown significantly. Because users are networking storage, they need to be able to see what is going on in the entire environment."
Another concern is that more companies continue to move to multi-vendor environments, creating the need to be able to know what is going on across Compaq, EMC, and IBM equipment. Viewing storage holistically by architecture and by vendor gives users an improved view of how they are utilizing their equipment, how available the environment is, and improved views into the recoverability of the environment. "This is not just about visibility," says Frankle. "It is about viewing the environment and then being able to take action based on what the software is telling you."
Managing Storage Also Means Managing Media
While managing the storage environment is clearly a huge concern, George Symons, VP of product management and development at LEGATO Systems (Palo Alto, CA), believes media management is also becoming more important. Interest in the management of media first accelerated after September 11. As data continues to grow, and as the number of tapes continues to increase, simply managing the media in a tape library will no longer be sufficient.
Although tapes sitting in a library are easily managed, management becomes difficult as media moves around the company. Users must always know the location of a cartridge, when it should be moved off-site, when it should be brought back, and when it should be recycled. "If a user needs to recover a specific application, they must be able to quickly locate the tapes that contain that information," says Symons. "On September 11, 2001, one of our customers had 21,000 tapes. To get their critical applications back up and running required only 4,000 of those tapes. Tracking and finding the right tapes was critical. The ability to track media is essential to any disaster recovery plan."
The falling cost of hard drives is making them a more popular backup product. As the drives become more popular, a software solution that manages the data on the drives becomes necessary. Disaster recovery is about reducing the time of recovery, and disk allows for much faster recovery than tape. But when using disk, data management is still a necessity. "If a customer needs to load a snapshot of their data that was taken two hours ago, they need a tool that can do that for them," says Symons. "Users shouldn't have to figure that out themselves. The software should tell users if the data they need is stored on disk or if they need to go back to a tape."
Don't Forget About Backup
Tony Barbagallo, VP of marketing for Dantz Development Corp. (Orinda, CA), reminds VARs that while managing storage resources is important, backup is something that must not be overlooked. "VARs are typically the front line of defense for data protection," he says. "VARs must make backup as easy and painless as possible for the end user."
Barbagallo has also seen a large number of enterprise customers using disk drives and NAS appliances for archiving data, mainly because of the declining cost of hard drives. "Many companies are moving away from using tape to store data that needs to be accessed, using it instead for off-site backup," he says. "But in the small to medium companies, that is not the case. Smaller companies still cannot afford the cost of disk backup." Instead, in the small to medium enterprise space Barbagallo believes tape drives are making a huge resurgence as a backup medium.
"A resurgence in tape drives is important for VARs because managing tape and tape drives presents an incredible added value service for a solution provider or systems integrator," he says. "VARs must help their customers understand that protecting all of the business-critical data in a corporation is necessary for survival."