This week's gathering of storage experts in Dallas at Storage Networking World is sure to bring out the very latest in virtualization, capacity management and other top trends affecting the field. And just about all of the new tools on display will focus on the one overriding issue that dogs the data center: storage utilization.
The sad fact is that the typical enterprise uses perhaps 30 to 40 percent of available storage. Virtualization helps, as it does with server utilization, but since most organizations maintain a variety of storage systems from different vendors, it has become rather difficult to centralize storage management in any meaningful way. Add to this the common practice of overprovisioning, lest the boss suddenly find himself without the means to back up critical data, and the situation is ripe for continual overspending on an ever-increasing, unmanageable storage environment.
One of the newest approaches to combat under-utilization is multi-vendor management systems. The idea is to bring all storage under a centralized management scheme so that available resources can be distributed more evenly, regardless of which vendor silo they're in.
EMC, says CNNMoney.com, is looking to forge an industry-wide solution with the Storage Networking Industry Association around the company's eXtensible Access Method (XAM) system. The company bills it as a software framework for fixed content storage systems that provides multi-vendor interoperability, data portability, and automated ILM tools for long-term storage.
Multi-platform environments also present a storage challenge. Symantec's Storage United strategy is aimed at the growing number of enterprises running Windows, Linux and various flavors of UNIX and, consequently, can't seem to keep tabs on their storage infrastructures, reports Windows IT Pro. The heart of the strategy is CommandCentral Storage 5.0, a single toolset that can create a full storage network topology that, according to the company, can be used to double utilization in many cases.
A growing number of newcomers are also looking to establish themselves in the utilization field. Xiotech Corp. just released the Magnitude 3D 4000 system, featuring an Intelligent Provisioning module that automatically adds storage volumes as needed without exceeding actual capacity. Not only does this eliminate the time-consuming process of manual provisioning, it takes away the guesswork over how much storage will be needed on any given day, the major cause of over-provisioning.
Meanwhile, eWEEK says Pillar Data Systems claims that customers of its Axiom storage system are reporting an average written disk utilization rate of 62 percent (that's written utilization, not allocated), with some customers going as high as 80 percent, with no significant impact on I/O performance. The company credits the system's ability to consolidate multiple storage functions into a single array as a main factor in its utilization performance. The Axiom is now available with Hitachi 1 TB SATA drives.
Like its counterpart in the server farm, storage utilization is hot right now because it delivers benefits to both the capital and operations budgets. Costs may be going up, but at least there are a number of strategies to help keep things under control.