Why Consolidated Data Storage is Necessary

Excerpted from Global Knowledge White Paper: Storage Consolidation, from EMC Corporation

Application availability is critical for business. A company’s bottom line in many ways is directly associated with the availability of business-critical applications. There is a demand to protect every bit of information, and in the event of an outage, bring critical applications back online in the least amount of time with minimal to no information loss. This brings forth a dilemma for IT organizations that they must handle with prudence as they look to consolidate storage.

Backup and recovery is, in fact, one of the key reasons for consolidating storage. By being able to account for information/storage in one location, the overall backup and recovery process can be streamlined; staggered or continuous backup and recovery policies can be employed to minimize application downtime while providing the required level of protection to business from data loss.

Backup and Recovery Objectives: At the very outset of backup and recovery consolidation, the two key elements that require consideration are the recovery-point objective (RPO) of various applications and the recovery-time objective (RTO) that the business can afford. Once RPO and RTO requirements are determined, using different technologies for various backup and recovery schemes can be deployed.

Manage/Consolidate Data that Requires Protection: Managing the total volume of data that requires protection is essential in keeping the backup and recovery environment consolidated, and it plays a significant role in minimizing the overall storage requirements and cost of data protection. Typically, organizations incur significant charges associated with backup hardware and its maintenance. There are software tools that help identify and eliminate duplicate and non-unique content from data protection environments. These tools enable organizations to retain a single instance of common information with complete security and authenticity.

The Tiered Data Protection Model: Stringent backup and recovery requirements for business productivity, corporate governance, and compliance with regulations demand faster and increased protection of information. The evolution in data protection technology made it possible to create and implement backup and recovery architectures to meet these aggressive business demands.

Consolidation with Disk Library: With the introduction of disk backup libraries, organizations can fully leverage their disk storage infrastructure. With built-in high availability features and performance, organizations can continue to leverage their existing backup and recovery procedures established for tape libraries while storing data on disk media. This can eliminate service and maintenance costs associated with managing a tape infrastructure. Where retaining some information on tape is a necessity for vaulting purposes, data can be streamed from the disk library onto tape.

Storage Management Consolidation

Storage management can be thought of as the “control tower” for storage operations. By centralizing and consolidating storage management, organizations gain increased control over their resources across multiple operation centers. This helps establish standardized and streamlined storage policies and practices, deliver higher quality of storage services, and reduce the overall storage management cost.

From a business perspective, the net result of a well-designed, consolidated storage management environment is that it improves utilization of available capital resources, increases IT staff productivity with a decline in HR costs due to fewer required resources, and decreases license costs for management tools, along with significant improvement in the quality of service.

Business Continuance and Disaster Recovery Consolidation

With the growth of business comes the need to expand IT operations across multiple geographies. When not managed properly, distributed IT operations can result in significant cost to business. In an effort to improve efficiency and reduce cost, companies may consider consolidating to fewer, centralized, and well coordinated data centers across different geographies to serve business requirements in a more consistent fashion and act as consolidated disaster recovery sites.

Planning for Storage Consolidation—High-Level Considerations

In order to realize the full benefits and ensure success of storage consolidation projects, organizations must account for and execute a number of steps before, during, and after the storage consolidation. These steps include:

Consolidation Planning and Quality of Storage Service Considerations: The first step in any storage consolidation project is to develop a well-organized plan that includes a project feasibility study based on the type of consolidation under consideration. This plan also needs to include information on the creation of a tiered storage service model based on business requirements.

Service-Level Creation: The goal of creating service plans is to better serve IT customers by leveraging available consolidated storage resources in order to deliver measurable quality of service. These service plans such as platinum, gold, and bronze, need to outline the type and tier of storage software and hardware that will be utilized.

Storage Deployment Planning: Next is to determine how storage will be consolidated without impacting ongoing business operations including IT services that will be a part of this consolidation.

Consolidated Storage Operations Planning

Once the deployment plan is articulated, the next step is to take into account the day-to-day operations of the consolidated storage infrastructure. Here we need to address:

Storage growth and scalability requirements — How storage usage will be monitored and additional resources will be provisioned

Data protection and recovery requirements — Policies that will be employed to meet aggressive recovery-point and recovery-time objectives

Information archiving requirements — Tiered storage resources that will be utilized to archive information

Disaster Recovery and Replication Requirements

To ensure non-disruptive business operations and dispersion of consistent information across multiple data centers, appropriate use of replication technologies needs planning. Organizations must consider replication technologies that offer the flexibility required in implementing appropriate replication solutions according to business requirements.

Maintenance and Repair Services Requirements

One of the major benefits of consolidating storage is to simplify necessary maintenance and repair works. There is a significant cost that businesses incur as a result of scheduled or unscheduled downtime due to maintenance activities such as data backups, storage provisioning, firmware upgrades, and repair of hardware after a failure. Organizations spend millions of dollars renewing their maintenance and service contracts with suppliers. Hence it is critical to fully take into account the reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS) features of storage hardware to be deployed.

Operations staff and skill requirements

Another driver for consolidating storage is the need to reduce staff requirements to manage fast-growing storage infrastructures. In order to reduce operational complexity and improve staff productivity, it is imperative to employ tools that are easy to use and feature a standard, intuitive methodology for managing storage across a broad set of resources. Automation of day-to-day storage administrative tasks are essential in improving staff productivity.

Electronic business information is one of the most valuable assets of any organization and continues to grow at an unprecedented pace. As a result, storage growth is outpacing most other information infrastructure components in IT. Consolidating information onto the right storage platform delivers significant business and technical value. Storage consolidation places IT on track to respond to future business requirements in a proactive and cost-effective manner.

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