Tag Archives: Tips

Enterprise Data Storage Shopping Tips


Enterprise data storage used to be an easy field. Keeping up meant just buying more drives from your RAID vendor. With all the new hardware and software today, this strategy no longer works. In fact, the radical changes in storage products impact not only storage buys, but ripple through to server choices and networking design.

This is actually a good news scenario. In data storage, we spent much of three decades with gradual drive capacity increases as the only real excitement. The result was a stagnation of choice, which made storage predictable and boring.

Today, the cloud and solid-state storage have revolutionized thinking and are driving much of the change happening today in the industry. The cloud brings low-cost storage-on-demand and simplified administration, while SSDs make server farms much faster and drastically reduce the number of servers required for a given job.

Storage software is changing rapidly, too. Ceph is the prime mover in open-source storage code, delivering a powerful object store with universal storage capability, providing all three mainstream storage modes (block-IO, NAS and SAN) in a single storage pool. Separately, there are storage management solutions for creating a single storage address space from NVDIMMs to the cloud, compression packages that typically shrink raw capacity needs by 5X, virtualization packages that turn server storage into a shared clustered pool, and tools to solve the “hybrid cloud dilemma” of where to place data for efficient and agile operations.

A single theme runs through all of this: Storage is getting cheaper and it’s time to reset our expectations. The traditional model of a one-stop shop at your neighborhood RAID vendor is giving way to a more savvy COTS buying model, where interchangeability of  component elements is so good that integration risk is negligible. We are still not all the way home on the software side in this, but hardware is now like Legos, with the parts always fitting together. The rapid uptake of all-flash arrays has demonstrated just how easy COTS-based solutions come together.

The future of storage is “more, better, cheaper!” SSDs will reach capacities of 100 TB in late 2018, blowing away any hard-drive alternatives. Primary storage is transitioning to all-solid-state as we speak and “enterprise” hard drives are becoming obsolete. The tremendous performance of SSDs has also replaced the RAID array with the compact storage appliance. We aren’t stopping here, though. NVDIMM is bridging the gap between storage and main memory, while NVMe-over-Fabric solutions ensure that hyperconverged infrastructure will be a dominant approach in future data centers.

With all these changes, what storage technologies should you consider buying to meet your company’s needs? Here are some shopping tips.

(Image: Evannovostro/Shutterstock)



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Adapting IT Operations to Emerging Trends: 3 Tips


For infrastructure management professionals, keeping up with new trends is a constant challenge. IT must constantly weigh the potential benefits and risks of adopting new technologies, as well as the pros and cons of continuing to maintain their legacy hardware and applications.

Some experts say that right now is a particularly difficult time for enterprise IT given the massive changes that are occurring. When asked about the trends affecting enterprise IT operations today, Keith Townsend, principal at The CTO Advisor, told me, “Obviously the biggest one is the cloud and the need to integrate cloud.”

In its latest market research, IDC predicts that public cloud services and infrastructure spending will grow 24.4% this year, and Gartner forecasts that the public cloud services market will grow 18%in 2017. By either measure, enterprises are going to be running a lot more of their workloads in the cloud, which means IT operations will need to adapt to deal with this new situation.

Townsend, who also is SAP infrastructure architect at AbbVie, said that the growth in hybrid cloud computing and new advancements like serverless computing and containers pose challenges for IT operations, given “the resulting need for automation and orchestration throughout the enterprise IT infrastructure.” He added, “Ultimately, they need to transform their organizations from a people, process and technology perspective.”

For organizations seeking to accomplish that transformation, Townsend offered three key pieces of advice.

Put the strategy first

Townsend said the biggest mistake he sees enterprises making “is investing in tools before they really understand their strategy.” Organizations know that their approach to IT needs to change, but they don’t always clearly define their goals and objectives.

Instead, Townsend said, they often start by “going out to vendors and asking vendors to solve this problem for them in the form of some tool or dashboard or some framework without understanding what the drivers are internally.”

IT operations groups can save themselves a great deal of time, money and aggravation by focusing on their strategy first before they invest in new tools.

Self-fund your transformation

Attaining the level of agility and flexibility that allows organizations to take advantage of the latest advances in cloud computing isn’t easy or cheap. “That requires some investment, but it’s tough to get that investment,” Townsend acknowledged.

Instead of asking for budget increases, he believes the best way to do that investment is through self-funding.

Most IT teams spend about 80% of their budgets on maintaining existing systems, activities that are colloquially called “keeping the lights on.” That leaves only 20% of the budget for new projects and transformation. “That mix needs to be changed,” said Townsend.

He recommends that organizations look for ways to become more efficient. By carefully deploying automation and adopting new processes, teams can accomplish a “series of mini-transformations” that gradually decreases the amount of money that must be spent on maintenance and frees up more funds and staff resources for new projects.

Focus on agility, not services

In his work, Townsend has seen many IT teams often make a common mistake when it comes to dealing with the business side of the organization: not paying enough attention to what is happening in the business and what the business really wants.

When the business comes to IT with a request, IT typically responds with a list of limited options. Townsend said that these limited options are the equivalent of telling the business no. “What they are asking for is agility,” he said.

He told a story about a recent six-month infrastructure project where the business objectives for the project completely changed between the beginning of the project and the end. An IT organization can only adapt to those sort of constant changes by adopting a DevOps approach, he said. If IT wants to remain relevant and help organizations capitalize on the new opportunities that the cloud offers, it has to become much more agile and flexible.

You can see Keith Townsend live and in person at Interop ITX, where he will offer more insight about how enterprise IT needs to transform itself in his session, “Holistic IT Operations in the Application Age.” Register now for Interop ITX, May 15-19, in Las Vegas.



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