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The time is right for efficient storage

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More efficient storage

If there's any silver lining to this economic cloud, it's that storage managers are redoubling their efforts to run their storage more efficiently. While proponents of storage virtualization have long extolled its greater efficiencies, most shops have shied away from often difficult and costly implementations. Twenty-seven percent of the current survey respondents have virtualized at least some of their storage (up one point from last fall) and another 21% plan virtualization evaluations this year.

A one-point hike isn't statistically significant, but other indicators suggest storage virtualization is being considered a little more seriously these days. Compared to last fall, the number of respondents with planned 2009 purchases was up in four of the five storage virtualization technology categories. Software solutions were favored, with 14% of those surveyed planning to acquire software to run virtualization in their array and 10% opting for host-based storage virtualization. Plans to buy storage virtualization appliances dipped to 11%, a mere point lower than last fall.

Thin provisioning -- another very effective way to conserve disk dollars -- is also getting more interest. On another survey (Storage Priorities for 2009, fielded late October 2008), thin provisioning was the top pick among disk-related technologies, with 55% of respondents planning to deploy or evaluate it in 2009. Thin provisioning is a relatively

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low-cost array option considering its potential benefits; in some cases, thin provisioning capabilities are built in and just waiting to be turned on. Rain and Hail's Downing is particularly interested in Hewlett-Packard Co.'s new Enterprise Virtual Array 8400 (EVA 8400). "It's my understanding that they're going to have some thin provisioning," he said.

Just getting data on the right type of storage can reap significant savings and free up prime high-performance capacity. For Horace Mann's Janssen, that'll be a key project in 2009. "We'll be doing a lot of migrating off tier 1 into the appropriate tier this year," he said. This will require some additional storage shelves for the firm's Clariions, but no array acquisitions are planned. "Those all came at the very end of last year," said Janssen.

Archiving can also free up expensive primary storage capacity by moving less frequently used or unused data to cheaper disk or tape. Like thin provisioning, archiving is more of a cost-reduction maneuver than a cost avoidance one, but with the prices of very high-capacity disks so much lower than those of primary storage-capable drives, it's no wonder that 63% of respondents are using some form of archiver (email, file system, database, etc.), a jump from the 56% who reported using them a year ago. Email archiving, in particular, has been picking up steam, with 38% using it now vs. 28% last spring. And while purchasing plans are being scaled back across all product categories, it looks like cuts in spending for archiving applications will be less drastic than in some other areas (see "Archiving apps: Using now and plan to buy").

This was first published in May 2009

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