Storage consolidation is one of those tasks that everyone agrees is a good idea, but few really know how to get it done, or to make it pay off. Now that consolidation is taking hold in the server farm, though, enterprises are increasingly looking to gain the same kinds of cost and efficiency benefits from storage.
For those unsure whether storage consolidation is worth the time and expense, Logicalis recently published a white paper listing the ins and outs of the process. Take a look at their "Seven Signs It's Time to Get Proactive About Your Storage" list to see if you've outgrown the tried-and-true approach of simply adding more drives to the mix.
Virtualization is naturally proving to be a major component of most consolidation approaches. The latest example is 3PAR's Virtual Domains software for the company's InServe storage servers. Rather than rely on physical and manual segregation of storage resources to ensure that different users aren't stumbling over each other trying to access data, Virtual Domains provides for logical separation of users, groups, hosts or other entities to allow shared access for up to 2,000 InServ arrays.
IBM had consolidation in mind as well with the Virtual File Manager (VFM) function addition to the System N storage system. The system supports file virtualization and data management for unstructured data in UNIX, Linux, Windows and IBM N systems, which improves not only consolidation efforts, but migration and disaster recovery operations as well.
Consolidation doesn't necessarily require new systems and software. Enterprises running Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 have a number of configuration options at their disposal to maximize both storage and server efficiency and improve networking and other operations to boot.
Please don't get the idea that storage consolidation is a quick and easy process. Aside from the technical challenges, it requires quite a bit of soul-searching to determine how data is to be treated, what sort of accessibility is required, how backup and recovery is to be structured and countless other items. But with storage requirements constantly increasing, the sooner that storage is turned into a cohesive whole, the better.