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Content access means a dual storage strategy

The content delivery market is booming, but analysts say that in order to avoid chaos, a dual strategy of centralized and local storage is necessary.

The birth of the Internet in the --> 90's may have been a blessing for some, but for many, it has also been a curse -- at least for storage administrators.

The Information Superhighway has opened the door to a countless number of new Web-enabled applications, all of which have one thing in common: They eat up storage capacity at a tremendous rate. The concept of centralized, networked storage is helping to ease the burden of managing data, but accessing data from a remote office isn't always easy.

The aspect of data access can sometimes be overlooked when businesses centralize and consolidate their data into a single storage pool.

"If you put all your SAP and Siebel [applications] at the data center you've suddenly shot performance," said Amit Pandey, senior director for Sunnyvale, Calif.-headquartered Network Appliance Inc.'s content delivery business unit.

He said improved manageability, while dramatic, can come at the cost of productivity.

Pandey said the answer is a dual system with temporary storage at a remote office or local site backed by a permanent, centralized storage repository in a data center. This system is often called a contend delivery appliance.

According to the online technical dictionary, content delivery, (sometimes called content distribution or content caching) is the service of copying the pages of a Web site to geographically dispersed servers and, when a page is requested, dynamically identifying and serving page content from the closest server to the user, enabling faster delivery. A common approach is to place a caching appliance behind a firewall in a remote office to speed access to files.

The trick is to store the right data at the edge. The edge is the part of a network at the farthest point from the data center (i.e. a remote office location)

"You need core consolidation, otherwise it's mayhem," said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst for the Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group Inc.

Duplessie said the edge is the closest thing to the user, therefore you need the "right" data at the edge. Storing data solely at the edge is too risky, but having a copy there in order to improve user productivity.

"This is not an either or proposition," he said.

Content delivery device.

Network Appliance is joined by several other players in content delivery, including Cisco Systems Inc., Storigen Systems Inc., Isilon Systems Inc., and Surgient Networks Inc.

Parker Hannifin Corp., Cleveland, Ohio, uses content caching devices to give it a leg up in employee training. According to David Rook, technical resources manager at Parker Hannifin, NetApp's NetCache products let the company deliver training to employee desktops, and allow workers to access training materials at their own pace and according to their own varied work schedules.

"We're looking at expanding our remote training capabilities, incorporating complex content, and delivering to more employees without increasing existing bandwidth," he stated.

Content delivery devices are enabling a whole new batch of Web-enabled applications like streaming media, corporate training, movies on demand, Web-based television and Microsoft's .NET.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor


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