What's going on in the data center? Despite slower economic growth -- in some cases, as a result of slower economic growth -- data centers have been getting a bit more attention lately.
Richard Scannell, vice president of corporate development and cofounder at Glasshouse Technologies (a consulting organization), identified a number of storage-related issues he sees as hot buttons for those involved with data centers.
"The thing that's happening more than anything else is still consolidation," he says. When businesses were growing, they let "everyone do their own thing," he explains. But with retrenchment everyone is looking for ways to consolidate people and standardize as much as possible. Scannell says last year was the year of the layoff. This year, by contrast, people are trying to pick up the pieces and make them work better with minimal additional investments. "It's a work in progress," he adds.
Technology may help. Scannell says he's intrigued by a startup called Savantis that can support consolidation goals with virtual machine technology that supports multiple instances of the same SQL database or Exchange application on a given server. Savantis says, its dbSwitch is the first product to provide switched access to databases, effectively virtualizing the database server layer of the data center. "There was a lot of Wild West buildout on Intel servers and companies are looking for solutions like this to help them consolidate," Scannell says.
Driven by a welter of regulations, Scannell also sees e-mail archiving as a "huge" new area for attention and investment. "Five years ago there was very little to archive but some enterprises now have to worry about 50 terabytes (TB) and there is the question of who will archive it and what it will look like in another five years," he says. Scannell stresses that it isn't just a capacity question. "I don't think anyone believes there is a simple, holistic solution but you do need a strategy," he says.
Companies need to understand regulatory requirements, know what they need to archive and for how long, and need to determine which media makes the most sense. "Most of the regulations have been written in a very broad brush way so it is up to each organization to determine what they feel is the right interpretation and then implement practices on that basis," he says.
On the technology front, Scannell sees continued interest in the potential for iSCSI. "iSCSI is an opportunity for customers to de-couple storage and computing and begin to make investments in standards at a number of different layers," he says.
Others share Scannell's view of hot button data center issues.
Arun Taneja, principal of the Taneja Group, says he agrees with Scannell's assessment. On the archiving front, Taneja believes the IT community, especially in industries with specific government mandates, will need to make significant investments. This may give a boost to storage vendors in the short term and perhaps for IT organizations themselves in the long run. "The bad news is there is no immediate payoff from this investment for IT," he adds.
Michael Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates also agrees with Scannell. However, Karp suggests that e-mail archiving mandates be viewed more broadly, through the lens of Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) -- a discipline he says gets too little attention. "Traditional efforts to reduce storage overhead have encouraged purging of e-mails and other files, often on what amounted to a first-in-first-out basis." Instead, Karp says companies need to adopt methods and tools to help them assess the value of information so that storage -- and archiving -- can be as rational as possible.
Finally, regarding iSCSI, Karp says his surveys show 15 percent of IT operations are already implementing. "It is ideal for places where you have little or no IT staff," he says. But it is not without its problems -- particularly in terms of security. "You don't get nothin' for nothin', " he adds.
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About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, MA.
This was first published in September 2003