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Storage outlook '06: Consolidation rules

In the first of a series of user profiles Schenck Business Solutions CIO and CTO, James Tarala, talks to about what's on his plate for storage next year.

Schenck Business Solutions is a corporate finance services company employing 500 people across 11 offices in Wisconsin....

With 20 terabytes (TB) of iSCSI SAN storage and two data centers to manage, the company's primary challenge is to optimize the use of storage resources.

What's your most important storage project for 2006?

James Tarala: We are looking at server consolidation and at our iSCSI SAN to help further drive consolidation. The trick is to determine just how much consolidation can be achieved, and evaluate the practicality of consolidating data at remote offices.

What are the key storage trends in your industry?

In addition to following broader trends of server and data consolidation, Tarala points to disaster recovery, such as snapshots, as another key trend -- underscored in the wake of a recent data center power outage. Although the outage was only brief, it did wreck havoc with some of their servers.

Tarala: Having more snapshots would have allowed us to recover some of our service much quicker than we were able to coming off of tape.


He foresees taking several snapshots each day, and ultimately duplicating snapshots between his two data centers for additional redundancy.

What do you think will be the biggest hurdles to implementing storage in the coming year?

Tarala: This technology has matured a lot in the last several years, and the capabilities that are available now we really weren't even thinking about six or nine months ago. Part of the challenge is really forcing yourself to step back and re-evaluate what you're trying to do and how you're trying to do it -- and does that even make sense anymore given the new features that are available? IT decision makers should stay flexible, allowing for 'course corrections' as storage technologies and products continue to evolve.

What storage technologies are you evaluating for 2006? What looks interesting to you?

Tarala: One area that I am very interested in is devices that give me a lot of capacity in a little space. Since snapshots and other storage-intensive technologies can consume significant disk space, a key long-term goal is to improve density and manage costs. I don't necessarily need the highest performance, but I'm looking for reliable, economical chunks of [disk] space that I can be throwing these snapshots and replicated data onto. Another area of investigation will be improving the performance of remote offices. Though past examinations of WAFS and bandwidth-enhancing technologies have shown some compatibility issues, it's time to take a fresh look at the newer product offerings. I probably will be evaluating [WAFS] again next spring or summer. The next bandwidth crunch that I foresee is connecting my other offices to the data center.

What kind of staff changes do you expect, if any, in 2006? What skills are you looking for your staff to gain?

Tarala: I'm really not looking at adding anybody in the next year or two from the infrastructure side. The areas that I'm really looking to add is the 'business analyst' type roles where we're doing more consulting with our end users. However, the industry trend of doing more with less is certainly applicable. With new gear, one of my requirements was that it be manageable by my staff without $10,000 or $20,000 worth of training.

How do you see your storage utilization changing for the coming year?

Tarala: I'm probably looking at adding another 10 TB in the next fiscal year [doubling the company's capacity]. Some of that would be for application growth, and some of that would be for further enhancing our disk backup and replication strategies.


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