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Automation, Cloud Can Eliminate Storage Headaches

After virtualization, automation and the cloud are the next two most important ways to ensure storage provides the performance and capacity your company needs.

Amazon's 7 Cloud Advantages: Hype Vs. Reality
Amazon's 7 Cloud Advantages: Hype Vs. Reality
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In my last column, I explained how leveraging virtualization can reduce and maybe eliminate many of the headaches that storage managers deal with when provisioning. But storage management is more than just provisioning storage. You also have to make sure that the storage provides the performance and the capacity that the application demands. The next two steps in eliminating storage headaches are to leverage automation, and to fully embrace remote storage cloud.

Automate
Storage performance tuning is making sure that applications are getting just the right amount of performance at the right time. Too little performance means that applications or users are not being as productive as they might be; too much performance means expensive resources sit idle. In the virtualized or cloud data center, performance and making sure it is managed correctly is becoming a time-consuming part of the storage administrator's day.

The key to making sure the right data is on the right type of storage at the right moment is knowing when to leverage solid state storage and when to use hard disk storage. In the modern data center this means moving data to higher-speed devices when the applications and users demand it and moving it potentially into a remote storage cloud when they do not.

[ Where can you cut corners with commodity tech? See Storage Software Vs. Hardware: What's More Important? ]

Some virtualization software applications like the ones I described in my previous column will allow you to move entire volumes, but in most cases the entire volume does not need to be on high-speed storage. Storage automation software should be different. It should understand data activity at a granular, sub-file level for maximum resource allocation. A Sharepoint database for example, might need to be on high-speed storage for performance--but all the documents it manages do not. Over time these could be migrated to high-capacity, low-cost, secondary storage, or to remote cloud storage.

Embrace the cloud
The cloud also should be an important part of any storage infrastructure and it, too, can reduce storage headaches. It can help with provisioning tasks so that they can be made more self-serviceable, which allows business application owners to handle their own provisioning requests based on policies and workflow. Cloud storage also can help with storage virtualization efforts if the cloud storage software can leverage multiple types of storage for the on-premise cache.

A key headache that gets resolved by cloud storage is dealing with capacity expansion. The right cloud storage application should be able to work with other storage automation features and keep the working set of data local, yet leverage the cloud for an almost infinite amount of capacity backend.

As we will discuss in our upcoming webinar, 3 Steps To Use The Cloud To Eliminate Storage Administration Headaches, a final key headache that using the cloud resolves is data protection and disaster recovery. Depending on the configuration, all data can be replicated in near-real time to the cloud, reducing the pressure on the local backup process.

In the case of a disaster that causes loss of access to the building, data in the cloud can be recovered from any other location. Recovery in the second site is as easy as re-installing the cloud software and mounting the cloud volumes. Data will be re-cached locally as needed, but applications can return to operation almost immediately.

IT is being pressured to be more responsive to the needs of the business and it is in IT's best interest to be seen as an asset to the organization, not a cost. Taking advantage of tools such as automation and the cloud makes storage responsive to the needs of IT so it can be responsive to the needs of the business.

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