User panel tells vendors 'simplify and automate storage'

Storage pros at a recent investors conference minced no words when it came to telling vendors what they want. The message was clear: give em' simplified and automated solutions.

NEW YORK -- A cry for simplification and automation was heard in triplicate as a panel of users laid out their wishes for the storage industry.

The panel of three IT storage professionals made the remarks speaking to investors and a slew of storage vendors last week at the RBC Capital Markets storage conference in here.

Singh's seven-steps to storage success

American Airlines' Director of Enterprise Architecture Roy Singh had some advice for his fellow storage managers attending the RBC Capital Markets investors conference in New York last week. Here's his seven-point model for storage success.

1. Start with an island of SANs to prove and develop SAN management capabilities and processes.

2. Design with adequate ISL (Inter-Switch Link)

3. Ensure full documentation

4. Data locality is very important to ensuring optimal I/O performance

5. Select the best in class servers, storage and infrastructure

6. Plan a separate tape SAN

7. Focus on software capabilities (security and management)

"I hate to wake up smart, high-paid people at 3 a.m. to do something that could be done automatically," said Bob Venable, Manager of Enterprise Systems for Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Blue Cross/Blue Shield. "In the future, we will be looking to share data between platforms and automate computing."

Venable, who manages a network of four environments with more than 200 different servers, also said one of his goals is to combine disks, data and people teams to create one shared environment.

Echoing Venable's sentiments was Roy Singh, director of enterprise architecture for American Airlines.

Singh also mentioned one element that could potentially put a wrinkle in simplicity, interoperability.

"I want a simple interoperability solution," said Singh. "You have to deal with a heterogeneous environment if you want to stay on the edge."

Singh uses a "best-of-breed" mentality when it comes to purchasing servers and storage equipment.

For a company that Singh says "never really thought about storage" -- American Airlines is using five Electronic Data Systems (EDS)-run data centers with 150-plus Terabytes (TB) of storage annually, with 30 of those TBytes in a Storage Area Network (SAN.) American is running thousands of NT and Unix servers with no affinity for any one platform. (American is presently running a heterogeneous environment including EMC CLARiiON, Sun, HP, Compaq and Dell servers.)

According to Singh, key drivers for storage are data warehousing and Web and application hosting. He, along with Venable, said that their organizations would be spending "flat to more" on storage in 2002.

Convinced that his company would be spending more on storage this year is Steve Hole, chief technology officer of ACI Worldwide.

ACI Worldwide, Edmonton, Alberta, is a facilitator of electronic billing and payment systems. On average, each one of the hefty legal or bill payment documents his company sends is 45,000 bytes. Not too bad so far, but Hole said most documents have three components, the initial document, the return document and a confirmation.

Factor in the seven years an average document needs to be retained (for legal purposes or payment records) you can see where all of the storage is going to be needed.

To maintain this capacity, Hole delineated his key requirements for the storage space. In the "must" category are: multi-petabyte sizing, multi-boot simultaneous access. Hole said "should haves" are multi-tier storage and remote replication. His "may-haves" fall in as storage on demand and intelligent server based storage.

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