Tag Archives: Storage

Open Source Storage: 6 Benefits


Storage software creation, delivery, and support are all evolving at a high rate today. We’ve added open source coding, support-services bundling, platform pre-integration, code as a service, microservice architectures, and scalable  software-defined storage services to the traditional bundled proprietary code approach. Open source packages in the storage word are now mainstream solutions.

The acceptance of open source storage is no accident. The leaders in the space, such as Ceph and Gluster, are all characterized by large communities, well-organized communications between developers, liaison with the customer base, and the support of a commercial vendor delivering full technical support and, typically, for-profit enterprise editions with additional features. These open source storage products compete with for-profit code and maintain leadership in most areas other than prices.

Apart from the leading packages, we see many other examples of open source storage code arising from communities of interest, such as the Btrfs and OpenZFS file systems, the LizardFS and Lustre distributed file systems, and Pydio, a file sharing system. , These projects vary in fullness of feature set and code quality, so that in their early stages it is definitely buyer beware. These packages, however, are a rich source of innovation for the storage industry and some will likely grow beyond their niche status in a couple of years, so it is impossible to dismiss them out of hand.

The community nature of open source means several things. First, it makes niche solutions easier to obtain since the community pre-defines a receptive customer base and a roadmap of needs. Compare this with the traditional startup – raising funds, defining an abstract product, developing it, and then finding customers. Community-based solutions lead to much more innovation. Often, solutions serving your specific needs are available, though a thorough evaluation is needed to offset risk.

In and of itself, open source storage code would not be interesting without the availability of commodity  hardware platforms that are much cheaper than gear from major league traditional vendors. It’s relatively easy to integrate open-source code onto these low-cost, highly standardized platforms. Generally, the standardization inherent in commodity hardware makes most open source code plug-and-play, irrespective of the hardware configuration.

In this slideshow, I delve into six open source storage benefits, and why you should consider open source storage for your data center.

(Image: Camm Productions/Shutterstock)



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Cloud Storage Adoption Soars in the Workplace


Despite lingering cloud security fears, businesses are adopting cloud storage and file-sharing services at a rapid clip, according to new research from Spiceworks.

Eighty percent of the 544 organizations Spiceworks polled reported using cloud storage services, and another 16% say they plan to deploy them within the next two years. A similar study by the company in 2016 found that 53% of businesses were using these services.

Even though cloud storage and file-sharing services are becoming pervasive in the workplace, 25% of survey respondents believe their data in the cloud is not at all secure, or only somewhat secure. Sixteen percent of those polled said their organization has experienced one or more security incidents, including stolen credentials or data theft, via their cloud storage service in the last 12 months.

To mitigate the risks, many organizations have implemented various security measures, Spiceworks found. Fifty-seven percent of survey participants said their organizations only allow employees to use IT-approved cloud storage services. Fifty-five percent enforce user access controls and 48% conduct employee security training.

Less common security controls for cloud storage services include multi-factor authentication (28%) and encrypting data in transit (26%), according to the research.

Microsoft OneDrive takes lead

The Spiceworks study also polled IT pros on their choice of cloud storage services vendor and found that Microsoft OneDrive has vaulted ahead of the competition in both the enterprise and the SMB markets. Among businesses with more than 1,000 employees, OneDrive’s adoption rate was 59%, much higher than GoogleDrive (29%) and Dropbox (25%). Among small and midsize businesses with 100 to 999 employees, the adoption rate for OneDrive was 54% compared to 35% using Dropbox and 33% using Google Drive.

“It’s evident that in a matter of two years, OneDrive has stolen the top spot from Dropbox as the most commonly used cloud storage service in the business environment,” Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks, wrote in a  blog post.

In 2016, Spiceworks research found that 33% of organizations were using Dropbox, 31% were using OneDrive, and 27% were using Google Drive. An additional 18% of businesses planned to adopt OneDrive.

Tsai surmised that OneDrive’s popularity is connected to the fact that it’s bundled with an Office 365 subscription, which many organizations have. A separate Spiceworks study found that more than 50% of companies subscribe to Office 365.

Security edges reliability

When buying cloud storage services, IT buyers put a priority on security, according to Spiceworks. Ninety-seven percent of survey respondents ranked it as an important or extremely important factor, followed closely by reliability at 96%.

Interestingly, 39% of those polled said security is the attribute they most closely associate with OneDrive, compared to Google Drive (28%) and Dropbox (19%). In terms of reliability and cost effectiveness, Google Drive led the pack. Dropbox got the highest ranking for ease of use.

According to the Spiceworks report, Dropbox also wins out when it comes to cloud storage services unsanctioned by the IT department.

The Spiceworks survey polled IT pros in the company’s network; they represent a variety of company sizes and industries.



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5 Storage Administrator Survival Tips


IT administration is under siege today. Automation is the buzzword in computer management and that holds true for data storage. The traditional storage admin has to wonder if he or she has is a future in IT or if it’s time to become an Uber driver!

The cloud has precipitated this changing and volatile environment. For large cloud providers that are massively scaled, automation is the only option To compound the storage administrator’s woes, though, the decline of the storage area network (SAN) clearly indicates that traditional skills of LUNs and rebuild windows won’t suffice much longer.

But there’s a huge opportunity in the new storage approaches! We already are seeing a rich ecosystem of new tools and approaches. On the one hand, we have small, but ultra-fast solid-state drive appliances, while an alternative architecture leads us to hyperconverged systems. Around each of these is a constellation of software products to manage and optimize storage operations. All of these provide a place for those admins willing to expand their horizons to find a meaningful co-existence with automation.

My first tip for survival is to make yourself useful to the business. No, that doesn’t mean becoming the go-to man for SANs! Your managers and the CIO all feel that grim reaper too. They’ll want to explore alternatives, so learn enough to test out new storage technologies. You don’t have to be an expert; remember, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king! But you have to know enough to be credible. 

The new storage solutions are going to look like Lego parts, with a huge variety of pieces complementing the basic bricks. You’ll need to gain some software skills and learn best practices for putting these pieces together in a way that best fits your company.

With some foresight and willingness to go beyond their comfort zone, storage administrators can weather the rapidly changing IT environment. Read ahead for ideas on how to extend your storage career into the future.

(Image: Igor Drondin/Shutterstock)



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SNIA Releases Data Protection Guidance for Storage Pros


Data storage professionals may not be accustomed to dealing with data security and privacy issues like due diligence, but with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation about to take effect, many will need to learn some new concepts.

That’s what makes a new white paper from the Storage Networking Industry Association especially timely, Eric Hibbard, chair of SNIA’s Security Technical Work Group, told me in an interview. SNIA, a nonprofit focused on developing storage standards and best practices, put together a document that provides guidance on data protection, specifically as it relates to storage.

“The storage industry has for many years has been insulated from having to worry about traditional security and to a less degree, the privacy issues,” Hibbard said. “With GDPR, the definition of a data breach moved from unauthorized access to include things like unauthorized data destruction or corruption. Why is that important to storage professionals? If you make an update to a storage system that causes corruption of data, and if that’s only copy of that data, it could constitute a data breach under GDPR. That’s the kind of thing we want to make sure the storage industry and consumers are aware of.”

The GDPR, which sets mandatory requirements for businesses, becomes enforceable May 25. It applies to any business storing data of EU citizens.

The white paper builds on the ISO/IEC 27040 storage security standard, which doesn’t directly address data protection, by providing specific guidance on topics such as data classification, retention and preservation, data authenticity and integrity, monitoring and auditing, and data disposition/sanitization.

For example, the issue of data preservation, retention, and archiving is barely touched on in the standard, so the paper expands on that and explains what the potential security issues are from a storage perspective, said Hibbard, who holds several certifications, including CISSP-ISSAP, and serves roles in other industry groups such as the Cloud Security Alliance.

The paper explains the importance of due diligence and due care – concepts that storage mangers aren’t used to dealing with, Hibbard said.

“In many instances, the regulations associated with data protection of personal data or PII (privacy) do not include details on the specific security controls that must be used,” SNIA wrote in its paper. “Instead, organizations are required to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures that meet their obligations to mitigate risks based on the context of their operations. Put another way, organizations must exercise sufficient due care and due diligence to avoid running afoul of the regulations.”

Failure to take steps to understand and address data exposure risks can demonstrate lack of due care and due diligence, the paper warns, adding: “Storage systems and ecosystems are such integral parts of ICT infrastructure that these concepts frequently apply, but this situation may not be understood by storage managers and administrators who are responsible and accountable.”

One of the components of due diligence is data disposition and sanitization. “When you’re done with data, how do you make sure it actually goes away so that it doesn’t become a source of a data breach?” Hibbard said.

The SNIA paper spends some time defining data protection, noting that the term means different things depending on whether someone works in storage, privacy, or information security. SNIA defines data protection as “assurance that data is not corrupted, is accessible for authorized purposes only, and is in compliance with applicable requirements.”

The association’s Storage Security: Data Protection white paper is one of many it produces, which are freely available. Others papers cover topics such as cloud storage, Ethernet storage, hyperscaler storage, and software-defined storage.



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Flash Storage Adoption in the Enterprise


We’ve heard for a while that flash storage is going mainstream, but how are companies actually using it and what results are they getting? A new report by IT analyst firm Evaluator Group sheds light on enterprise adoption of solid-state storage and why the technology has become so popular.

The firm, which specializes in analysis of data storage and information management, surveyed larger enterprises with more than 1,000 employees that had already deployed all-flash systems. That kept the study focused on organizations with first-hand experience with solid-state storage, Randy Kerns, senior strategist and analyst at Evaluator Group, told me in an interview. After the survey, which was conducted across various vertical markets, analysts interviewed many of the participants to get deeper insight.

Evaluator Group found that most of those surveyed bought all-flash arrays with the goal of speeding database performance so that certain applications ran faster. “The majority of them justified paying extra based on getting the databases to run faster,” Kerns said.

Another top use case was accelerating virtual machine environments, which involves supporting more virtual machines per physical server due to the improved performance with solid-state technology, he said.

Enterprises reported strong results with their flash storage deployments, the study found.

“In all cases, they got what they expected and more, to the point that they added additional workloads that weren’t performance demanding…They had more capabilities than they planned on, so they added more workloads to their environment,” Kern said. “And the future is adding more workloads or buying more all-flash systems for putting more workloads on.”

Organizations surveyed also reported improved reliability, with fewer interruptions either due to a device or system failure. “That was a big improvement for them,” he said. “It’s something they hadn’t counted on in their initial purchase.”

Survey participants said they valued the data protection capabilities of solid-state storage systems, such as snapshots. “The systems had the capabilities to do things differently so they could accelerate their data protection processes,” Kerns said.

Data reduction functionality wasn’t high on their list of solid-state features, as they considered it a basic capability of flash storage systems, according to Evaluator Group.

While solid-state storage has a reputation for being pricey, it wasn’t an issue for the survey participants, Kerns said. “These people already had them [all-flash systems], so the battle about cost is in the rear view mirror,” he said. “First-time buyers may have a sticker-shock issue, but for those who bought it, that’s history.”

When buying flash storage, enterprises tend to turn to their current storage systems vendor, the study found. “Incumbency wins,” Kerns said. A few bought from storage startups, but the majority preferred to stick with their existing vendor, enjoying new systems that operated in a similar fashion what they already had.

As for going all-flash, enterprises expect that will be the case eventually, but certainly won’t happen overnight. “They have a number of platforms that have a certain lifespan. They’ll just age those systems out, so it could be a number of years until they get to that point,” Kerns said.

Get live advice on networking, storage, and data center technologies to build the foundation to support software-driven IT and the cloud. Attend the Infrastructure Track at Interop ITX, April 30-May 4, 2018. Register now!

 



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