Storage UPDATE--Reconceptualizing Storage Strategies--August 30, 2004

Storage UPDATE--Reconceptualizing Storage Strategies--August 30, 2004

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1. Commentary - Reconceptualizing Storage Strategies

2. News and Views

- IBM Retargets NAS Gateway at SMBs

- McDATA and QLogic Team Up on SAN Initiative

3. Resource

- A New Logical Unit Number Is Not Detected When a Logical Unit Number is Removed from a Storage Device on a SCSI Disk Array

4. New and Improved

- Simple Storage for the Small-to-Midsized Businesses

- QLogic Introduces Support for Intel EM64T

- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 1. Commentary ====

by Elliot King, [email protected]

Reconceptualizing Storage Strategies

The dazzling array of new storage technologies such as Serial ATA (SATA), Serial Attached SCSI, and IP Storage Area Networks (SANs) that have or will soon be introduced presents storage administrators with an increasingly complicated set of choices for developing and enhancing their storage infrastructures. But building or augmenting an infrastructure from new, lower-cost options isn't just a matter of evaluating technologies. Rather, as Jerry Hoetger, senior manager of product marketing at VERITAS Software, contends, companies large and small have to reconceptualize the way they develop their storage infrastructure.

Long gone are the days of seeing more capacity as the solution to every storage problem. Yet some storage administrators continue to approach storage from a macro perspective, focusing primarily on the overall amount of data that they need to manage. The new storage options available mean that companies should instead categorize data, then construct a tiered storage infrastructure that is robust, safe, and appropriate for data of varying characteristics.

Data can be categorized in several ways. The most fundamental way is by type. Most companies have three types of data: structured transactional data, typically stored in databases; semistructured data, such as email; and unstructured data, such as documents. Within every company, each data category can be assigned a different importance, and thus a different value.

Typically, structured data is seen as the most valuable corporate asset and requires the most significant investment in tier-one storage. As we all know, the amount of structured data is growing rapidly, but in many cases the amount of semistructured and unstructured data is growing just as fast, or even faster. Although theoretically less valuable, that semistructured and unstructured data might still require the same high-performance, high-cost storage infrastructure as transactional data. The entertainment industry, for example, has seen a dramatic explosion in storage needs for image and audio files. And email, of course, is now essential in businesses of all sizes.

The question, then, becomes this: When is it prudent to store less-valuable data on lower-cost, lower-performance, less-reliable storage devices? For example, can a Hollywood production studio safely store movie files on a less expensive storage device than it uses for, say, its online-order-entry data? As another example, how should audio files be treated? Many universities now assign storage space to students; should students be allowed to fill that space with MP-3 files? Should the university regularly back up MP-3 files? Should those files be purged at the end of each semester, even if the student hasn't graduated? Should MP-3 data be stored on near-online, instead of online, devices?

Data type is only one criterion by which data can be categorized. Data can also be categorized by its timeliness or its access patterns. The concept of assigning a value to data according to its age is well known, for example. Studies have shown that the longer an email message goes unanswered, the less likely that it will ever be answered. Yet people who have access to sufficient storage space routinely keep thousands of email messages, although many of those saved messages will never be accessed again.

It seems intuitive that the newest data and data that's frequently accessed should be stored on the most robust, high-performance storage devices. But decisions to categorize data along those lines aren't always clear-cut. In large laboratories, for example, data generated by automated instruments might never be analyzed. But if a scientist does conceive of a question that she could use the collected data to answer, that data had better be available in a relatively timely fashion. Moreover, regulatory requirements in financial, health-care, and other industries now require companies to be able to access archived data quickly.

Interestingly, although categorizing data according to its type, age, and access pattern and building a storage infrastructure that reflects those categories seems like a logical approach, many companies don't have the internal organization to effectively carry out that kind of analysis. In many shops, a storage administrator or other IT professional has overall responsibility for the storage infrastructure and the most in-depth knowledge of possible storage solutions. But determining effective storage policies can require a deep analysis of data-access patterns and extensive consultation with end users. And, as Art Tolsma, CEO of Luminex Software points out, many end users aren't interested in storing their data on less expensive, less robust, less available devices. His company markets a controller that lets mainframe computer users store data on open-systems storage devices. But, he says, many customers buy tier-one storage because that's what users want.

Despite the challenges, developing a more nuanced assessment of data storage needs can lay the groundwork for more effective storage policies and a more cost-effective and efficient storage infrastructure. This exercise can be worthwhile for companies of all sizes--even those who store all their data on a 40GB hard disk.

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==== 2. News and Views ====

by Keith Furman, [email protected]

IBM Retargets NAS Gateway at SMBs

Earlier this year, IBM introduced the IBM TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500, a combination of hardware and software that lets large enterprise customers link Storage Area Networks (SANs) over IP networks. (Click the second URL below to see the News and Views summary of that introduction.) Last week, the company announced a new configuration of the TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500 aimed directly at small and midsized businesses (SMBs). The new entry-level option lets customers configure the system with just one POWER4+ microprocessor (compared with up to eight processors in larger configurations) and decrease the starting price from $50,000 to less than $30,000.

In conjunction with the new configuration, IBM has announced a software upgrade for the TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500. The new software includes asynchronous, synchronous-mode, and Mirror Write Consistency (MWC) mirroring over IP networks. Other enhancements include better support for Windows environments, support for EtherChannel and IEEE 802.3ad Link Aggregation, and the ability to configure the system to use the Internet or a modem to request a service call.

McDATA and QLogic Team Up on SAN Initiative

QLogic and Storage Area Network (SAN) solution vendor McDATA have begun a new initiative aimed at making it easier for customers to build and maintain global, multivendor blade-server environments. The two companies will work together to enable core-to-edge interoperability, virtual routing, open exchange of management data, zoning, security, and partitioning. The initiative will make seamless interoperability available in native McDATA mode across McDATA's full product suite and QLogic's SANbox switches.

The partnership takes advantage of the trend toward blade computing in the computer industry. "Our research on companies' future spending plans makes it clear that blade servers will play a critical role in enterprises' future data center investments, so providers of SAN switching solutions must ensure compatibility between embedded Fibre Channel switches and existing enterprise SAN solutions," said Richard Villars, vice president of storage systems at market research firm IDC.

The McDATA/QLogic initiative will be the first to bring native-mode interpretability with McDATA products to a switch vendor. McDATA's native mode is based on full compliance with the Fibre Channel Switch Fabric (FC-SW) standards. QLogic is an OEM whose chips and products are in solutions from companies such as Cisco, Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Network Appliance, Quantum, StorageTek, and Sun Microsystems.

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==== 3. Resource ====

A New Logical Unit Number Is Not Detected When a Logical Unit Number is Removed from a Storage Device on a SCSI Disk Array

In Windows Server 2003 or Windows 2000 Server, when a LUN is removed from a storage device on a SCSI disk array, the storage device might not detect a new LUN even though one is available. To learn why this problem occurs and how to obtain the hotfix that addresses it, click the URL below.

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==== 4. New and Improved ====

by Jason Bovberg, [email protected]

Simple Storage for the Small-to-Midsized Businesses

Emulex announced that EMC has qualified the Emulex LP101 Fibre Channel HBA as E-Lab Tested for use with the EMC CLARiiON AX100 networked storage system, which targets small-to-midsized business customers. When combined with the CLARiiON AX100, the Emulex LP101 delivers a customer-installable and -maintainable storage solution for users who need the benefits of scalable, consolidated storage. The solution also delivers a Fibre Channel storage solution that provides users with a simple and seamless out-of-box experience. For more information, contact Emulex on the Web.

QLogic Introduces Support for Intel EM64T

QLogic announced that its line of SANblade Fibre Channel and Internet SCSI (iSCSI) host bus adapters (HBAs) will support the new Intel Xeon processor-based platforms that include Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology (Intel EM64T). Intel EM64T is an enhancement to the Intel IA-32 architecture that lets the processor run newly written 64-bit code and access larger amounts of memory. Compatible drivers from QLogic for Fibre Channel and iSCSI HBAs will be available in conjunction with the availability of versions of Windows, Red Hat Linux, and SUSE LINUX OSs that offer Intel EM64T support. For more information, contact Qlogic on the Web.

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