Why Storage Automation Will Be a Hot Topic in 2009
Storage companies are finding ways to automate processes that used to be painstaking, tedious and expensive to handle. For example, storage tiering and change management priorities can now be dialed up from anywhere in the world on Web-based central consoles supplied by a rapidly growing number of vendors.If there's one word that spells out a major data storage trend for 2009, it's "automation." In its simplest form, we're talking about the creative intersection of business intelligence, botlike software and data storage arrays.
Storage companies are finding ways to automate processes that used to be painstaking, tedious and expensive to handle. For example, storage tiering and change management priorities can now be dialed up from anywhere in the world on central, Web-based consoles supplied by a rapidly growing number of vendors.
Storage tiering keeps often-accessed data on a fast Tier 1 spinning or solid-state disk, by far the most power-hungry option; Tier 2 data, accessed less frequently, is kept on slower, cheaper SATA (Serial ATA) disks. Tier 3 is tape storage for data that may never see the light of day again.
Intelligent software in the data center is doing more of the heavy-and often very intricate-lifting. Old-school manual labor, where IT staff met once or twice a month to physically print out all the application patches and security updates on spreadsheets and walk them out to production locations, is finis.
The process of creating storage access and security policies also has been speeded up, with wizards and drop-down menus becoming commonplace. Templates are popping up everywhere. Administrative jobs are getting done in minutes that used to take hours or days.
On the operations side, data centers are being kept cooler with less electrical draw by automated variable-speed fans and pumps. These are replacing traditional CRAC (computer room air conditioning) and CRAH (computer room air handling) units with fans that run at a single speed. In this way, when a section of server racks is cool enough, the fans automatically slow down to save energy; conversely, when the racks need more cooling, they speed up.
This all adds up. A reduction of 10 percent in fan speed yields an approximately 27 percent reduction in a fan's electrical use, and a 20 percent reduction in speed yields electrical savings of approximately 49 percent.
Automated features are trickling down from HPC shops
These are the advantages high-performance computing shops have enjoyed for years. Now those features are finding their way into most enterprise systems-and even some small and midsize business systems.
"Systems are becoming a lot more intelligent, quicker to adapt to changes in the environment," Willy Chiu, IBM's vice president of High Performance On Demand Solutions, told me. "You start off with these traditional processes-we call them BSS (business services) and OSS (operations services). Those will be automated, and they will leverage these cloud [storage] computing infrastructures and will provide more links to your business processes.
"IT becomes a much more intelligent organization, smarter about the environment you're in; therefore, you can leverage it to drive your businesses across this new environment."