BOSTON—Its easier than one might think to identify when a particular technology or methodology is hot—just Google around for all the conferences springing up around it.
Data storage, it all its forms, is precisely that hot IT subject right now. With the proliferation of data in dozens of formats, the increased demands placed on its handling and security by government and court jurisdictions, and the new industries sprouting around all this activity, there are a lot more people talking about it.
And they are selling plenty of tickets to people who want to hear.
Storage World, 6 years old and based in Los Angeles but venturing to the East Coast for the first time in 2006 here at the World Trade Center, opened Sept. 19 and will continue through Sept. 21.
Storage Plus took place in the Bay Area on Sept. 12 and 13.
About 550 registered participants and about 20 storage companies are in attendance here Sept. 19-21, which is a pretty fair turnout for a first-time, niched conference like this.
And what are they all talking about? Pain points, such as dealing with remote offices, security and authentication, federal auditing regulations, continuous data protection, and a long list of other topics are the subjects of full seminars and panel discussions.
Topics like fabric-based intelligence, virtualization, Fibre Channel versus iSCSI, tape versus spinning disk storage, how to do ILM (information lifecycle management) correctly, and others are also on everybodys agenda.
Day One Highlights
Day One highlights
Highlights of opening day included keynotes by EMC vice president of development Mark Lewis, who is astute at framing the pain points and solutions noted above and explaining what enterprises must do to address them; and storage industry analyst Arun Taneja, whos been researching this sector about as long as anybody else and has deep insight into trends within the genre.
Lewis, fast becoming a legitimate spokesperson for the whole of the storage industry, said that the IT industry in general needs to change from an “OS- and platform-centric industry that is static and procedural” into one that is “service-oriented, dynamic, Web-based and with virtualized management,” so that work flow gets accomplished as efficiently and painlessly as possible.
Lewis said he sees four key pillars of this new infrastructure:
- a flexible, tiered infrastructure
- intelligent information management
- “orchestration” of IT (not management)
- information-centric security
“What I mean by orchestration is this: If Im conducting an orchestra, I dont have to know all the details about playing each instrument,” Lewis said.
“All I have to know is the right beat that everyone will play to. I dont need to manage each instrument; I just need to lead them.”
An IT “orchestrator,” Lewis said, will connect the needs of his or her business with the information and the regulatory straps that bind it.
At last count, Lewis said, there are more than 20,000 information-based regulations in effect worldwide.
“You do this with intelligent management,” Lewis said. “The applications we now have are all so unique to each other, that information is still trapped behind those singular apps.
“Microsoft has the right idea in [forthcoming] Office 12: Theyre saying, were no longer going to have binary files. Word docs will be able to be displayed on browsers; they can interact in a whole new way. [EMCs] Documentum also does this, it can search, classify, move, etc., documents anywhere. This is what businesses will need when dealing with all those regulations.”
As companies begin to realize they will need to consolidate their IT storage and administration in order to gain better control and lower costs, they will need to look into tiered infrastructures and virtualization, Lewis said.
“You can unlock the services from the physical restraints by designing a system with those attributes,” Lewis said.
“When a storage system is optimized for control and cost, then youll have maximum resources available at all times. Creating simple tiers: Thats it; thats the base foundation for good ILM.”
Lewis admitted that this new simplicity storage strategy isnt exactly simple to implement.
“To do this, you need to do end-to-end SLA [service-level agreement]/SLO [service-level objectives] management, cross-domain orchestration, base it on SOA [service-oriented architecture] and know how to get it all up and running. Not a lot of people have done this so far,” Lewis said.
Lewis couldnt resist a dig at one of EMCs biggest competitors.
“Nobodys ever done an end-to-end deployment of [IBMs] Tivoli—its just not done. Its not possible. Just ask someone.”
Lewis is also a bit concerned about IT security in general.
“Weve focused on the wrong thing,” he said. “We used to think all we need is a strong wall. But you have to put holes in the wall eventually; you have customers, and employees, and its not foolproof. Were finding a high percentage of security issues come from the inside, not the outside.
“When you call your bank and want to take your money out, for example, they ask you your mothers maiden name. Well, I dont know about you, but I havent worked too hard making my mothers maiden name a secret,” Lewis said.
“What kind of security is that?”
Taneja talks about remote offices
Taneja, who runs a national storage consultancy that bears his name, said that “lets face it, remote offices, are a bane for IT people. Theres a definite loss of control and security, applications run slower on WANs, you have a lot of duplicate equipment, network bandwidth costs are outrageous, there is often shoddy or inconsistent data protection between different offices, and theres always extra personnel costs.”
Taneja said that the entire country is moving to remote workplaces, making life tougher for IT managers and staff members.
He pointed out these facts, based on his firms own research:
- 60 percent of all data is generated outside of headquarters
- 75 percent of employees work outside a companys headquarters
- U.S. business now has surpassed 2 million remote offices
- globalization is adding to the pressure (languages, time zones, etc.)
- the India-China factor: Many companies have overseas call centers, manufacturing plants, and sales offices
“The virtual worker is simply a reality,” Taneja said, “and this situation will worsen over time.”
Consolidation and centralized, intelligent management is the best answer to solving these issues, Taneja said.
“These remote-office issues are being solved by some great new technology ideas, including virtualization, tiered storage, better authentication and security, and centralized management,” Taneja said.
“Companies need to sort through all the new options they have now [through new products and methodologies] and map out a strategy that will serve them best. Theres a lot to learn, but it can be done.”
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