Storage Outlook '06: Managing growth through automation

Storage architect says that with staff remaining flat and data continuing to grow, automation of storage services through SRM tools and virtualization will be crucial.

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Alan Grantham, storage architect for Nationwide Investment Services Corp., knows the problem of data growth and the increasing headaches caused by regulation as well as anyone. He says finding ways to automate storage services, through virtualization or through more advanced storage resource management (SRM) tools, will be crucial to keeping up with mushrooming storage demands.

SearchStorage.com: First, a quick picture of your storage environment (vendors, which products, how much capacity you are managing) and a line on what your company does.

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Alan Grantham: Nationwide is one of the largest insurance and financial services companies in the world, with more than $148 billion in statutory assets. Our core businesses include: domestic property and casualty insurance, life insurance and retirement savings, asset management and strategic investments. The storage infrastructure includes over a petabyte of storage spread over a consolidated SAN designed for availability, recoverability and growth, NAS appliances, DAS and mainframe storage. Nationwide has a multivendor storage environment, including EMC [Corp.], IBM, Sun [Microsystems Inc.] and Network Appliance [Inc.]

What's your most important storage project for 2006?

Grantham: Virtualization is seen as a top project both for our NAS and SAN environment. We see virtualization primarily in the short term as allowing us to lower the costs associated with frame refreshes, but in the long term facilitating a functional SRM and information lifecycle management (ILM) strategy.

What are the key storage trends in your industry?

Grantham: The key storage trend from my perspective is not so much the technology aspects of storage as defined by many vendors, such as within ILM or virtualization. It is the strategic aspect of finding ways to lower the incremental cost of storage acquisition -- the need for which has grown -- considering the laws surrounding compliance and retention for legal defense have driven storage utilization much higher. The emphasis of many of the storage strategies is simply to drive down the operational and capital costs it takes to serve this area of the industry rather than adding more functionality.

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

Grantham: The biggest hurdles I see in implementing storage continue to be the ability to maintain a heterogeneous storage environment, and the policy, governance and enforcement of storage strategies in a large enterprise -- a hurdle which has to be overcome is the ability to automate storage strategies rather than the policing of them.

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

Virtualization and archiving technologies are certainly the most interesting technologies to us. However, they are closely followed by the evolution of storage management tools to provide root cause analysis and automated provisioning.

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

Grantham: For the storage arena, I envision either a flat or small growth in staff with an increasing need for staff to have more fully developed skills in both the archival and business continuance/recovery products. I see this increase in the architecture and engineering functions rather than the provisioning/operational roles of storage. Team members will also need to have the increasing flexibility and skill set to use management tools to automate tasks in order to continue to raise the TB [terabyte] to storage administrator ratio.

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

Grantham: I envision storage utilization continuing to grow at the same rate as 2005. However, I see it forced more into Tier-2 and Tier-4 storage with a much smaller growth in Tier-1.

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