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March 2006
Executive opinion

Michel Lepert, General Manager, Bull Products and Systems
Data storage, creating value for business

Not that long ago, data storage was simply seen as the infrastructure component responsible for holding the organization’s information assets. However, it is important to consider that the very words associated with ‘storage’ have static connotations, whereas everyone now recognizes that information can only really contribute to creating value if it is mobile. It’s no longer enough just to store and protect data. It’s also essential to move information around, share it more effectively, and further enrich it to make more from it as an asset, rather than simply preserving it. What’s more, these objectives need to be achieved under the dual pressure of a constantly growing amount of data to be processed, and continual cost reductions.

As ‘Architect of an Open World’, Bull is very keen to help its customers meet these new challenges and act as a catalyst to enable such vital changes.

Managing data storage networks and optimizing service quality
The first stage involves ensuring that the links between application servers and information banks is secure and delivers the best possible performance. Our development teams, with their extensive expertise in servers and storage networks, have developed the StoreWay Multipath range of software to provide these links and ensure this kind of interoperability.

It is also essential to have an in-depth understanding of the typology and the way that the information infrastructure is used: from the servers to the data storage facilities, via the various different networks being employed. For every datacenter, it is fundamentally important to have a real-time reporting tool, capable of providing information on data characteristics, parameters and events. This should allow the enterprise to manage all its information, independent of any IT architecture, server, storage device, network or application considerations. These types of products, known as SRM (Storage Resource Management) tools, bring together all the data management from a physical standpoint (providing a kind of ‘enterprise data map’), as well as a logical point of view by showing data utilization in terms of capacity, performance and anomalies. It combines discipline with a degree of flexibility, by providing both regular reports and real-time snapshots of resource utilization. When this kind of tool enables the enterprise to see how storage resources are being used by different business units, it becomes essential. And when it also enables the automation of certain data administration tasks, it becomes absolutely indispensable! This is why our R&D teams have further enriched the functionality of the StoreWay Maestro data storage management platform, with its modular approach designed to respond as effectively as possible to the specific requirements of every different datacenter.

Ensuring operational continuity
Once an organization has such an effective data management platform in place, then it becomes possible to check whether the quality of service provided to each business unit is in line with its demands and to analyze whether the risks of various operational issues are fully covered. It is also important to recognize that the technology advances can themselves sometimes trigger such risks. The most striking example is the advances in disk technology: despite a doubling in storage capacity every 18 months, improvements in protective mechanisms are nowhere near keeping pace. The continued increase in disk storage capacity has actually resulted in a considerable extension of the time needed for data reconstruction after replacing a faulty unit and, by the same token, significantly increased the probability of a subsequent failure. Faced with this growing risk – confirmed every day by our own maintenance statistics – it is becoming imperative to integrate technologies that remove this risk of a double failure, with the attendant total data loss that can ensue. We believe that a double-parity RAID solution, capable of surviving a double disk failure, is no longer optional, whether for massive data storage solutions or those involving business-critical data. This is why our teams have incorporated this essential technology into Bull’s StoreWay FDA storage solution.

Guaranteeing the confidentiality of information
Data security is not limited just to disk protection. Although the majority of datacenters are generally quite well equipped to protect themselves from viruses and intrusions of all kinds, few have taken the precaution of encrypting information that is backed up externally. And what organization can afford to take the risk of a third-party gaining unauthorized access to a Terabyte or more of information stored in a single medium? What company or public sector body could shoulder the loss, possibly irremediable, of confidential information relating to its customers or users? Given the scale of the risks involved, legislation is constantly evolving to require increasing data encryption. In response to these growing requirements for confidentiality of information and security in all types of IT activities involving magnetic tape storage, suitable for backup applications, we offer our StoreWay DataCrypt solution.

Optimizing information protection
New kinds of data backup solutions have recently appeared that reduce application downtime windows and improve protection levels. But, given the growing amount of data that is being stored, CIOs and IT directors are faced with a phenomenon that is at odds with business continuity requirements: increasing data restitution timescales. In order to bring these back down again to match budgetary demands, a new type of architecture – known as D2D2T (Disk to Disk to Tape) – is being developed. This enables rapid restoration of the most recent data, from a disk cache, whilst retaining all the cost benefits of tape storage. This kind of technology has been used for a number of years by some of our mainframe customers, and is now being deployed in open systems environments using our virtualization solution, StoreWay Virtuo. This features a secondary disk-to-tape migration system, which has no impact on production because the data is no longer transferred via the server or the network.

Managing costs and complexity
The main challenge faced by all IT organizations is to satisfy the future-proofing needs for their IT infrastructures whilst managing both acquisition and usage costs, despite the continued growth in the amount of data to be stored. No-one can realistically allow costs to increase in direct proportion to the increase in information. But the lower price of storage Gigabytes, disks and cartridges doesn’t make up for the increase in the volume of data that needs to be stored and protected. To stay ahead of these changes, it is important to gain a better understanding of how this information is being used in the short term, in order to constantly adapt the relevant service levels. It is also important to be in a position to deploy data consolidation, storage hierarchy, SRM and archiving solutions capable of very significantly reducing data infrastructure cost of ownership. Some talk about real-time infrastructures, offering the capacity to deliver the requisite information to the right place, at the right time. However, what is really important is not simply transferring data as quickly as possible, but rather carrying out this data transfer in within agreed timescales.

To help organizations in their efforts to control costs, we have loaded our StoreWay solutions with all the essential components and products, and developed the skills and services needed to deploy just the kind of solutions that our customers need to meet these new challenges.

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