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Storage islands leave data management plans adrift

A major problem that IT professionals have dealt with over time is the creation of islands of storage. A common cause of islands is when organizations purchase and deploy new systems with their own storage for a specific purpose.

Storage islands create problems in these areas for administrators:

• Data protection. This requirement is usually assigned to a single group to insure its completion, manage recovery of information, and make sure business practices are followed. When storage spreads to islands, these tasks become more complex.
• Security. Islands of storage increase the effort required to address security for data-at-rest.
• Inflexible capacity. Islands prevent capacity from being applied to where there is immediate demand.
• Performance. Meeting changing performance demands to storage can be difficult and expensive. Individual islands of storage would have to be addressed as individual cases each time there is a performance challenge.
• Cost. The overall costs for managing storage islands can be significant and greater than expected when the islands were created.

The IT answer for islands of storage has been a consolidation to centralized storage, either through storage virtualization or large systems with advanced capabilities for performance, protection and security. Performance is addressed by the larger systems with the ability to manage quality of service and introduce solid-state storage. The economics for consolidation have been proven over time compared to isolated storage.

There are new ideas to “make storage easy” that have become popular but are creating even more islands of storage. Hyper-converged, converged systems and virtual SANs as implemented by many organizations create islands. It is difficult, if not impossible, to consolidate these systems. These types of systems result in faster deployment and greater simplicity, but they complicate data management. They are often deployed in a manner in which the IT professionals are unavailable to fulfill the requirements to meet business demands.

The challenges represent opportunities, however, for companies to create new solutions to solve or at least lessen the problems. It is unlikely that the requirements around protection, security, capacity demands, performance, and overall management cost will go away or be redefined out of existence. These will require new solutions.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).