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The Way Business Is Moving

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Issue Date: July 2008

Focus on value

1 July 2008

Virtualisation is currently a hot topic and creeping into every layer of the IT stack. Organisations are investigating the opportunities that exist in virtualising operating systems and applications, with an aim to consolidate infrastructure and drive business alignment.
Storage virtualisation is a more mature methodology and is now being supported with innovative hardware and software solutions that have the ability to unlock great value. Manfred Gramlich, storage lead for Sun Microsystems South Africa believes that storage virtualisation has much to offer businesses in reducing complexity and consolidating hardware, along with often overlooked advantages in data migration. Deriving value from data storage, however, relies on effective optimisation in the form of 'thin' or 'dynamic' provisioning of virtualised storage that can provide an immediate ROI.
Manfred Gramlich
Manfred Gramlich
"Storage virtualisation is possible via four methodologies that share common advantages," says Gramlich. "Virtualisation of storage improves device utilisation levels, reduces storage management complexity and overall costs while facilitating interoperability and driving open storage systems. Other advantages include resource consolidation and the enablement of applications to more fully leverage virtualised storage, thanks to the tight integration of operating systems and virtualisation technology."
"But in my opinion one of the greatest advantages of storage virtualisation is in data migration. This is not often perceived in the market, where the likes of consolidation and the resulting reduction in complexity tend to take a front seat," he adds. "Moving data from one storage system to another is essential, yet most end-users do not have a strategy aside from letting their storage vendors move their data for them. The problem with this approach is that it is a reflex action rather than something that should be considered as an important project in and of itself. Additionally, there are more reasons to move data between storage systems beyond upgrades, such as intelligent tiered storage; something that everyone thinks about doing, but rarely implements."
Data migration drivers include upgrading to new storage systems for next generation upgrades, storage consolidations, test and development, and intelligent tiered storage. Power, cooling and floor space consumption will drive even further data migrations to consolidate storage systems to an even greater degree. Server virtualisation increases storage capacity and new storage system acquisitions, which are catalysts for data migration projects as well.
"One-time moves are valuable and necessary, but you must also begin to consider implementing an intelligent tiered storage environment along with the day-to-day migrations it necessitates. This will provide a great deal of value in your datacentre. Consider the implications of a long term relationship and not just a one-time project," advises Gramlich.
Competent data migration offerings will provide a completely transparent service, even in heterogeneous storage system environments. Additionally, they allow data migrations to happen online while users and applications are accessing data on these platforms. But Gramlich says that virtualised storage should be accompanied with effective provisioning to drive rapid ROI and offer real value to business. The most effective technique of doing this is in thin or dynamic provisioning.
"According to a study by Gartner, the average Disk utilisation in Microsoft and Unix environments is between 30 to 40%," he says. "This means that for every R1 customers have spent on storage acquisitions their actual return on investment (ROI) averages at 30-40 cents. The main contributing factor to this is in how storage technologies are packaged, requiring that customers purchase 75% more storage than they need.
"But virtualisation with thin provisioning can help increase the utilisation of disk resources. By applying thin or dynamic provisioning to a virtualised storage environment it is possible to increase utilisation to 60%, providing an immediate ROI and allowing customers to defer their storage spend."
The market has not been educated enough in the advantages of effective provisioning and for this reason the overriding perception, even in more mature markets, is that it is cheaper to simply buy more disk instead of optimising existing storage resources. This is a perception that vendors must combat.
"Virtualisation means simplification. And if organisations can simplify they must begin to take steps to do so immediately. The gap between management, deployment and the amount of data to be managed continues to widen. This is why virtualisation is currently on the front page of nearly every trade journal," he concludes.
For more information contact Manfred Gramlich, Storage Practice lead, Sun Microsystems, +27 (0)11 256 6300, manfred.gramlich@sun.com


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