Preserving Value in Designing Lasting Storage Solutions

1 year ago
Eric Vanderburg

Storage solutions make or break the systems they support and yet these same systems are routinely seen as a cost to be decreased, rather than a competency to be developed. A racer doesn’t remove his engine if he expects to compete. However, rational, well-intentioned businesses sacrifice storage capabilities in an attempt to improve the bottom line. Those who wish to be prepared for the future must think differently. The fact is that storage supports the business and it will be even more important as we move forward into this data-driven economy.

Traditional cost factors and costly mistakes

Storage as a component of IT is often seen as a cost of doing business. You can’t run a business without looking at costs, but costs are only part of the picture. Companies exist to provide some value and the costs they incur should be contributing to that value. Cutting cost without regard to their value erodes organizational effectiveness, ultimately leading to organizational demise. That said, storage is a cost, but it is more important to view it as a component of the organization’s core competency, and a large contributor to the value the organization offers to its customers.

IT decision-makers are still looking for storage solutions that reduce rack space, lower power and cooling costs and meet IOPS (Input/Output Operations per Second) requirements at a low price point. That much hasn’t changed, but continued progress in these areas has primarily been the through the increasing use of flash storage. Flash uses less power and produces less heat and it now comes at an affordable price.

“Compared with other storage solutions in our data center, we have seen a 100 to 200 percent increase in data speeds with our all-flash Dell storage arrays,” says Xu Hui, chief information officer at Daqo Group.

It can also meet IOPS requirements with fewer disks or chips so I/O intensive apps can run off a smaller footprint. Flash capacity has also been changing with technologies like 3D flash memory allowing for arrays to be flash only, and it comes in a variety of flavors such as SLC, MLC, and TLC that offer different price to performance ratios.

For those choosing to retain their spinning disk systems, power and cooling costs cannot be ignored. These aging systems can be costly to maintain. Some organizations may need to keep their data in-house due to regulatory or data sovereignty issues, so use cases vary. However, opportunities abound for moving archival functions to the cloud rather than keeping costly nearline storage systems running. Cache locally and hybrid solutions are giving organizations more ways to move active data to the cloud as well which are replacing traditional capital expenditures with operating expenditures.

Some companies do not need the IOPS that flash offers. They are more than happy with a few hundred or thousand IOPS, especially in network attached storage. Some businesses have difficulty adopting flash because of the initial cost, especially when they have an existing system in place that seems to do the job. However, configuration and utilization mistakes are far too common. RAID (redundant array of independent disks) groups are sometimes over-provisioned in order to meet IOPS requirements resulting in lower disk ROI. In other cases, the full cost of ownership of a storage system is not factored in because cost factors such as power and cooling are not assigned directly to the underlying resources, but are managed in their own bucket instead.

Long-term storage value

Each company exists for some purpose and employees work towards that purpose. Similarly, the technology an organization employs is also utilized to further organizational goals such as producing a product, organizing teams, communicating with employees and customers, and making sure that everyone is paid at the end of the day. When you look at organizational assets in terms of their value, it is easy to see which things should be enhanced and which should be removed. Systems that do not provide value should be cut or replaced and those that can bring more value should be enhanced.

Agility is a key factor in both the business of today and tomorrow. Organizations need storage systems that can be deployed quickly and easily to protect their data from loss, ensure its availability when needed, and respond quickly to application and end-user requests. Fortunately, deploying storage systems can be much easier today, and some systems are pre-configured for certain use cases. Hyper-converged systems, for example, are already preloaded with software for a workload. These systems are practically ready to go when they are plugged in. This can be quite advantageous for those companies that know what they need. However, other companies need flexibility with platforms that can support a wide range of workloads which flash and hybrid tiered storage can provide.

I would be remiss if I did not mention security because security preserves data value. Organizations rely on their data, and they receive significant competitive advantage from it. This competitive advantage is maintained when the security of their systems remains intact.

Lastly, users demand instant access to emails and files while databases are ever-hungry for more speed. Storage solutions that are designed to meet future requirements will see the most value when they can meet or exceed demand. This will allow organizations to make decisions quicker, create solutions for customers in less time and innovate faster than ever before. This is a bright future where technology is leveraged to allow people to do more than they thought possible. The future starts now. Is your storage ready for it?