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Searching for seamless consolidation

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Tying the silos together
Many organizations are now beginning to plot out a roadmap for consolidating their siloed SANs and managing them centrally. But getting there won't be easy. That's because, first, the software standards and tools organizations need to effectively manage heterogeneous networked storage devices in a centralized fashion are just beginning to appear and those that are here don't work seamlessly across all heterogeneous gear. Second, some storage managers say the ROI cases used to justify Phase 1--siloed SAN and NAS deployments--which increase storage capacity almost double that of direct-attached--won't necessarily work for Phase 2. And third, companies looking to manage storage in a consistent, centralized way will need to establish enterprisewide storage policies and practices, and convince independent business units to adopt them. At many organizations, comprehensive storage policies don't yet exist.

Why are organizations such as Reliant willing to buck those challenges and begin moving up the storage hierarchy to the second phase of networked storage? Because, say storage managers, there's plenty of room to improve on benefits that came with the first phase of networked storage deployments. Plus consolidated, centrally managed SAN environments should deliver a new set of benefits. Storage managers, for example, expect to easily perform continuous migration of data to the

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storage medium that delivers exactly the right cost and performance characteristics regardless of where it is located in the enterprise. They also expect to use centrally managed storage utilities to fine-tune disaster recovery procedures.

Take Phase 2 of Reliant's five-year networked storage plan. By consolidating previously siloed SAN and NAS storage, Brazil says, the company expects to be able to improve enterprisewide storage utilization by at least 15%. Phase 1 of Reliant's SAN/NAS rollout enabled the company to get to approximately 60% utilization, Brazil says. That's well above what most companies see with DAS, which, analysts say averages between 20% and 50% of capacity.

Adding up the savings
Phase 2, now underway, will bring that 50% up to at least 75%, Brazil predicts. What's that mean in dollars? With 250TB of useable storage deployed today, improving utilization by 15% will save the company 37.5TB, Brazil says. According to industry sources, Reliant is spending in the range of $200,000 per terabyte per year. This figure includes purchasing new storage, provisioning it, managing it and depreciating the storage. So for 250TB, Reliant is spending about $50 million a year. Recapturing 37.5TB saves them $7.5 million, according to sources.

In the first phase of its networked storage rollout, Reliant created two separately managed SAN/NAS silos, one for the company's Unix systems--running mostly transaction-oriented databases--and one for its Intel/Windows-based systems--storing mostly user files. Within each silo, Brazil's team created three graduated storage tiers. On both the Unix and Wintel sides, EMC Symmetrix SANs served as the high-performance tier. JBODs provided low-end, entry-level storage for both silos. In the middle tier, however, Reliant selected different storage products for each silo: Hewlett-Packard StorageWorks NAS devices for the Wintel side and Sun StorEdge T3 arrays for the Unix side. Although Reliant originally wanted to use Network Appliance (NetApp) NAS devices as the midtier storage technology for both silos, at the time, Brazil says, the company's software tools weren't up to managing both shared files and databases running on different operating systems.

Phase 2 of Reliant's storage plan--expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year--will break down the silos, physically consolidating Unix and WinTel storage on common platforms at each of the three tiers and will allow Reliant to manage each tier with a single set of software tools. By creating larger storage pools at each tier that are shared by more applications, Brazil says, Reliant expects to improve efficiency and boost utilization. Most of the savings in Phase 2 will come from these efficiencies, he says. Reliant will stay with Symmetrix at the high end.

One of Reliant's tier one applications, is the customer care and service (CCS) utilities application from SAP AG, which Reliant's customer service agents use. The CCS gets Tier 1 status--and uses Symmetrix storage--because it generates high transaction volumes and it needs to be up and running at all times, Brazil says. Service levels for the CCS application call for full disaster recovery and data restore within 24 hours. Besides utilizing the Symmetrix storage, CCS data is replicated twice--once to a separate DMX frame using EMC Symmetrix remote data facility software and again using EMC's business-continuity volume feature. Infrequently accessed Microsoft Word files reside on the JBODs, for example. For the middle tier, Reliant has put out an RFP in search of a single NAS vendor, and is once again considering NetApp.

This was first published in October 2003

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