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n°23  |  February   2008
Executive opinion

Don't live in fear for your data
By Benoît Hallez, Director of Bull's StoreWay storage solutions Business Unit

The future lies in rigor, intelligence and security. The latest data storage solutions effectively manage and protect rapidly-expanding amounts of data, and the knowledge capital they represent.

In the age of the digital economy, data centers are more complex than ever before. The volume of stored data is doubling every 18 months, and the number of times it is accessed is growing exponentially as the Internet becomes more powerful, with the increasing emphasis on personalized processing operations. At the same time, IT Departments are faced with the job of managing their existing data, with systems dedicated to specific applications constantly stacking up and resources increasing being dispersed. This kind of complexity – if not managed properly – risks leading to a complete blockage or paralysis of the system on the one hand and runaway budgets on the other hand, bearing in mind that storage already accounts for 40% of the average IT budget.

Is this flood of data going to completely clog up our data centers? Should we envisage new ways of operating? How can we control risk and make the most of our knowledge capital, to turn it into a driver for competitiveness? And how can we control the cost?

Benoît Hallez, Director of Bull's StoreWay storage solutions Business Unit, on the current state of play.

A huge change in paradigm and new ways of operating

Data proliferation and controlling costs
The proliferation of non-structured data – emails, documents, images, sound, videos... – is resulting in an overall increase of 60% per annum, and a real explosion in the task of ongoing day-to-day data management. With budgets rising by just 6% per year on average, it doesn’t take long to see the scale of the problem. The most pressing concerns we need to address are linked to the management of these huge amounts of data, with environmental and budgetary issues providing the backdrop.

Very fortunately, there are sources of cost-savings that can drastically reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) of data storage. In the first place, the fall in the costs of storage technologies of around 25% per annum. But this on its own is not enough! It is becoming imperative to change the ways we operate and to use the solutions that will enable us to store data more efficiently: de-duplication and virtualization can deliver major cost savings.

Apart from the problem of soaring amounts of data, we need also to address the issue of virtually uncontrolled serial back-up operations on data. Why copy the same data ten or even 100 times, as is the norm with emails containing file attachments, conscientiously archived by every owner... De-duplication will introduce a degree of intelligence to storage and enable us to store 30 to 100 times more information. More widely, all virtualization technologies that eliminate hardware constraints will result in greater agility and speed of execution.

Intelligent and differentiated data management may allow us to survive this proliferation of information. Why make regular back-ups of data that for the most part will never evolve? Do we have to provide the same level of protection, availability and speed of access for all kinds of information? An important email is usually no longer important once it has been processed and acted upon. Data needs to be mapped and classified depending on how critical it is to the business, and phases in its lifecycle need to be taken into account: if we can achieve this, it is much easier to align data storage resources and the processes used to manage them according to the type of data involved. This is the key to flexibility and cost control.

Data availability and accessibility
Classifying data by evaluating its value to the enterprise (both now and in the future) helps establish an appropriate level of accessibility, and so to the type of infrastructure and the processes best suited to storing it. Over and above cost reductions, the intelligence that this brings to managing data helps to address service quality and continuity requirements, particularly in an environment that is much more demanding than it used to be (when back-ups once a day in the evening were all that was required). Nowadays, it is a question of making continuous back-ups in real time, depending on how business-critical the data is, to provide the 24x7 business continuity the enterprise needs.

Controlling risk and protecting data
The risk of data loss or unauthorized access can come from many different sources: failures in the data storage system, human error, malicious acts, accidents, disasters... This is why it is so vital to have an infrastructure that allows access to data whatever happens. Disaster recovery solutions provide service continuity. What’s more, we need to ensure that we still have the capacity to re-read any data, no matter how the storage tools evolve in technological terms.

Finally, as everything goes ‘100% digital’, the issue of long-term data protection is starting to rear its head with increasing urgency for many business sectors. For example, in the context of anti-terrorist activity, European legislation is forcing telecoms operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), to keep all calls and emails for a period of between six months and two years. We’re talking about legal archiving, or the ‘digital safe’. In this case it is not a question of trying to archive everything, but rather of providing different types of archives – daily, yearly, even ten-yearly archives – depending on whether you’re operating in the banking, healthcare or law enforcement sector. For example: traceability of merchandise in the grocery sector, traceability for financial transactions or pandemics. In order to locate the information required, we will be using meta-data, which brings together several different types of data to retrace chronological events in the food and drink industry, for example, or to identify a series of vehicles with a technical problem requiring a recall.

Flexibility and agility
Flexibility is the watchword for today’s IT infrastructures. For many decades now, information systems have developed iteratively, with components and extra functions being added as and when needed over the years. As a result, they have acquired a certain rigidity that can hold a business back when it comes to the agility it needs. For this reason, the problem of managing data often requires us to reconsider how to manage the data lifecycle. We need to rationalize information systems around data, using tools that bring greater simplicity, and so more flexibility and improved cost control.

Bull, architect and integrator of innovative storage solutions

Bull has put these major challenges at the heart of its strategy, and has created the international StoreWay Business Unit dedicated to data storage solutions, bringing together everything from R&D skills to specialized sales forces. The 30% growth we have seen in this area clearly confirms our choices were the right ones. As ‘Architect of an Open World®’, Bull is also contributing – as part of the SNIA1 – to the definition of new standards to increase interoperability and openness of storage solutions.

Thanks to our expertise in data centers, combined with our experience in implementing major systems integration projects, we have both the skills and the tools to update our customers’ existing infrastructures in order to align them with their business concerns: in other words, an architecture that makes the most of the organization’s knowledge capital. To mention a few examples: the integration of complex storage infrastructures at the French Ministry of Finance for the Chorus2 project, as well as for Kronenbourg, Sonepar and GIMSAO (the French agricultural industry social protection body in the Western region); the hierarchical storage system for the French Atomic Energy Authority’s TERA-10 supercomputer designed and integrated by Bull (5 petabytes3); the disaster recovery infrastructure for RATP; storage virtualization for our major GCOS customers using our StoreWay Virtuo solution which brings together open worlds.

Bull’s greatest asset, as architect and integrator of storage solutions, compared with other systems integrators, is its mastery of technologies, as this enables Bull to support its customers from start to finish in their projects: from designing the storage architecture, to selecting the most appropriate technologies, and integrating the solution within the customer’s IT infrastructure and business processes.

Our Storage Center of Expertise at Echirolles in France, working closely with Bull’s partners, can benchmark any solution proposed. With our multi-partner offer that guarantees independence, our own experts’ technology watch, and our own developments, we provide customers with real choices about the best technical solution for them.

We are focusing our development work on middleware delivering high added-value – which helps to optimizing or personalizing the solution – as well as on the latest virtualization solutions (StoreWay Virtuo), service continuity and data protection (with our new software suite StoreWay Calypso that enables back-up and archiving to be activated in CDP4 or HSM5 mode).

Once integrated, the solution is deployed at the customer’s premises. Alternatively, it can be hosted at our own data centers and maintained at the customer’s site by our support teams, with a commitment to results (as defined by a SLA6) to guarantee operational continuity. These teams benefit from the support of our Storage Center of Expertise, which is unrivalled in Europe. This level of close proximity to high-level experts, working closely with our experts in operating systems, databases and high availability, is one of the resources we offer that is definitely most highly valued by our customers, and most sought after by our competitors.

To sum up: it goes without saying that business data is one of our most precious assets today. Processing data with rigor, intelligence and security is a vital challenge. We hardly need reminding about the potential for catastrophic events such as the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States. The recent loss of highly sensitive information about 25 million British citizens by the public sector that could cost the banking industry an estimated $500 million, shows that data protection also requires rigorous day-to-day handling procedures. Other challenges related to environmental protection are emerging, linked to the exponential increase in data storage requirements.
In order to help you manage and anticipate this situation, Bull is today launching its fifth initiative: Don't live in fear for your data.

For intelligent and secure storage solutions, always choose Bull!

1SNIA: Storage Networking Industry Association
2Chorus: the financial management system used by the French government
3Petabyte: 1015 bytes, or one million billion bytes
4CDP : Continuous Data Protection
5HSM : Hierarchical Storage Management
6SLA : Service Level Agreement

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