Ford Fleshes Out Virtual Roadmap

Storage virtualization is key to the car manufacturer's green IT strategy

February 29, 2008

3 Min Read
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NEW YORK -- Automotive giant Ford has thrown its weight firmly behind storage virtualization to tackle its data center "sprawl," according to Vijay Sankaran, the firm's director of IT infrastructure.

Speaking at IDC's Green IT Forum here today, Sankaran explained that he oversees a vast IT infrastructure comprising 5,000 Intel servers dotted around the world, two vast U.S. data centers totaling 100,000 square feet, and a rapidly expanding storage infrastructure.

"How many of you have your arms around data growth?" asked the exec, prompting laughter from his 100-strong audience of IT managers. "We certainly don't -- I have gotten requests for applications that want a development environment of 10 Tbytes."

Cue a major storage consolidation and virtualization effort that started back in 2006.

"We have taken a lot of individual frames of storage and gone to large towers of storage," said Sankaran, explaining that Ford has virtualized over two Pbytes of data using IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC) and the vendor's DS8000 and DS4000 SAN systems."We have also tested that with EMC's storage products and we have been successful in using SVC to virtualize across EMC and IBM without a lot of difficulty," he added.

Despite these successes, the Ford director warned users not to buy into the idea of a single technology solution that can solve all their power, cooling, and environmental worries.

From building data centers in cold climates to cutting air conditioning costs, to using blades and rack-mounted cooling solutions, the exec urged CIOs not to put their faith in one specific "green technology."

"I think there's no single cure to effectively reducing carbon dioxide emissions; it's a holistic approach that's going to work," explained Sanakaran.

Even virtualization, which has worked so well for Ford, should not be seen as some sort of silver bullet, according to Sanakaran."Virtualization is not an overnight activity, it's a huge program management effort," he warned. "There is a large overhead associated with running your virtualization program, a lot of change management, a lot of testing that needs to go in place, and a lot of system management tools."

The exec admitted that Ford's own virtualization deployment was not "without its hiccups," thanks largely to the comparative immaturity of the technology, an issue which has already been raised by other IT managers.

Ford has nonetheless cut its storage footprint by using virtualization and has also achieved "significant" savings by reducing the need to buy additional hardware, according to Sanakaran, who refused to reveal exactly how much is company saved.

IDC analyst Vernon Turner also urged users attending today's event to look beyond just virtualization, and touted the green benefits of other, newer technologies.

"Now we have got emerging technologies that can do things like thin provisioning and de-dupe that can be really effective when you need to manage your storage," he said.Even with de-dupe, which is becoming increasingly popular, the analyst issued a note of caution, warning IT managers in some industries, such as the medical sector, to approach the technology carefully.

"You might not want to see de-dupe images because you might want to see the continuum of the business," he added.

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  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • IDC

  • Intel Corp.

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