Like a world-class rowing coach picks teams, storage integrator ITIS Services picks components from different manufacturers and teams them for heterogeneous network storage solutions. Escalating data management costs will steer end users toward these complicated solutions. Are you brave enough to give your customers what they want?
Rowers boldly describe their activity as the ultimate team sport. Teams must work together just to get into the boat without tipping it over and dumping everyone into the drink. The heterogeneous network storage solutions that Fred Busk, who is both president and CEO of ITIS Services (South Norwalk, CT) and a master rower, implements can be as challenging as a world-class competition.
Busk was president and CEO of Bank of Bermuda (New York) when his rowing teammate, Brendan Reilly, cofounder of ITIS Services, introduced him to a career in storage. Reilly now acts as the CTO of ITIS Services, and the other cofounder, Reilly's brother Drew, serves as a member of the board of directors. While Busk was at the bank, ITIS implemented a storage solution for one of Busk's mutual fund clients, and the potential of the mass storage market attracted Busk's attention. "What I was fascinated by was not the technology," he said. "I'm still fascinated by the power that the technology fundamentally gives to business managers."
While Reilly found his motivation in the practical application of technology, and Busk focused on the business applications of technology, they both recognized synergy in that combination. So Busk joined the ITIS Services team in April 2000.
The Right Rhythm For Customers' Storage Networks
It takes team coordination in the sport of rowing to move the boat forward, backward, and to steer it toward the finish line. Rowing is 80% mental and 20% physical, according to Mike Spracklen, renowned, world-class rowing coach.
Similarly, rowing's 80/20 rule can be applied to heterogeneous network storage solutions, like SANs (storage area networks). In SANs or other network storage, the hardware itself is only 20% of the total solution. The remainder is mental, in the form of the integrators' intellectual assets and the software that supports the system.
A heterogeneous network storage system consists of hardware components manufactured by different vendors. This hardware can include magnetic, optical, or tape devices, and also servers, switches, disk drives, host bus adapters, and cabling - all linked together in an intricate network fabric. Storage management software and integration expertise, such as what VARs and integrators provide, make it all work together. Heterogeneous network storage systems offer better solutions than single-vendor solutions for customers, and also higher margins for integrators. They are also more efficient than direct-attached storage, in which tape libraries or optical jukeboxes are attached to each server. For an enterprise with dozens of servers, this means the same quantity of storage devices, and a backup and storage management nightmare.
Busk isn't afraid to cite the advantages of heterogeneous solutions over single-vendor solutions. He contends that when a vendor tries to consider all the aspects of storage, it dilutes its technological advancement. Alternatively, single product vendors can focus on a specific aspect of storage, and therefore, make swifter technological advancements. And these vendors are starting to standardize their products through their association with the SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association). VARs and integrators can add value to storage solutions as they choose the best products from each of these vendors to compose the best solution for the customer. The VAR is like the rowing coach then, who selects the team and compels the rowers to work together.
Busk said the end user training required for these storage network solutions has actually decreased recently, even though the solutions are much more complicated than they were in the past. "In storage networking, one of the greatest developments is that the storage management software has improved so much. The software vendors have focused not only on the functional aspects of the software, but on improving the user interface and ease of use. This is an attractive selling point of storage networking, because many organizations are under pressure to contain IT administrator costs."
In addition to controlling administrator costs, network storage solutions, in general, can free up customers' valuable real estate space because storage allocation becomes more efficient and fewer servers are needed. Therefore, ITIS does not generally have to advise its customers to invest in more floor space for hardware. There may be some additional wiring required, but most of the physical changes that take place don't require a change in floor space.
Customers Race To Find More Effective Storage Solutions
An anonymous coach once said that a world-class performance in rowing is as difficult as "getting eight guys to run a four-minute mile in step." Heterogeneous network storage systems are like that, too. But, if they're so complicated, why would customers want them? Busk views the motivation for pursuing such a solution as much economical as it is technical, but it all seems to stem from the recent data explosion.
If you were anyone but a VAR or integrator, you'd be weary of hearing about the data explosion. VARs and integrators can't be tired of hearing about something that has opened up doors of opportunity for them. The amount of data has grown so fast that end users must have strategies to tame the beast. VARs and integrators must attack these problems boldly because, except for the larger companies with sophisticated IT staffs, the job is too big for the end user. Busk said, "They must not only understand what their storage assets are; they must be able to allocate them dynamically. They also need to be assured that there is a common level of integrity to back up and restore the environment."
The economic issues that businesses face have made them particularly sensitive to a by-product of the data explosion, which Busk calls "server sprawl." Without network storage systems, companies must buy more servers rather than investing in a system which will manage their storage assets more efficiently and may actually allow them to divest themselves of some of this real estate-hogging hardware. But there's more to think about besides physical plant when servers multiply out of control. "Server sprawl has caused a dramatic increase in personnel expenses and challenges in managing the infrastructure," said Busk. "There is the perception that more money is being spent than needs to be to ensure a solid storage infrastructure."
Bad Economy: Good For Storage VARs
The declining economy was actually a positive development for ITIS Services, explained Busk. "When the economy turned south, it accelerated the acceptance of heterogeneous network storage solutions, because customers became much more focused on economic justification of their technology solutions. This was particularly apparent in storage, which is fundamental to core business. So, the maturing market, combined with some economic challenges, has accelerated the overall acceptance of heterogeneous network storage solutions."
Balance The Talents Of The Component Team
In the same way that there are biomechanical and physiological differences among novice, good, and elite rowers, there are design differences among storage components that have varying levels of reliability. The physical characteristics of the rowers make a difference, because for instance, a heavier person is faster than a lighter person is. For a large enterprise, a Hitachi Data Systems (Santa Clara, CA) Freedom Storage Lightning 9900 might be the best storage array for its SAN. However, for the midmarket, the new Freedom Storage Thunder 9200 might be the better choice. Busk said, "The 9200 is not merely a scaled down 9900, but is enhanced with some specific application technology and customized for the segment that it's designed to address."
Fearlessly migrating customers from direct attached storage to heterogeneous network storage solutions makes ITIS a winner in an uncertain economy. Meanwhile, efficient storage management and reduced IT personnel workload help its customers manage the data explosion and be in command of the costs associated with it. Now those customers can focus on doing business, while their storage networks function like a world-class rowing team.Questions about this article? E-mail the author at AnnS@corrypub.com.