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n°25  |  April   2008
Guest contributor
“Storage optimization: challenges, issues and winning strategies for European businesses”

Current state of play with Karim Bahloul, Consulting Director, IDC France
“Don’t live in fear for your data” is the slogan for Bull’s 5th strategic initiative, which puts the spotlight onto the problem of storing and protecting data as information is more than ever a vital asset in every enterprise. Bull and IDC have published a white paper that explores the issues and examines best practices in relation to data management. A survey carried out in Europe by IDC on behalf of Bull is also due to be unveiled in the near future.

 

The media have recently cited numerous incidents relating to the loss of data, with potentially serious consequences. In the UK, for example, a back-up disk holding the personal data of 25 million people was lost by one government department, while in the USA, a file containing details of 650,000 customers was mislaid by one corporation. Is data management really posing much bigger problems than it used to?

The exponential rise in data volumes is making the job of managing them more problematic by the day. But this not the only ‘aggravating factor’!

  • For a start, let’s take the question of volume. At the moment, we are talking about a 60% increase per year. IT managers – in the same way as the public at large, with the multiplication of email and all kinds of messaging – are fully aware of this. Add to this the fact that data categories or types are increasingly varied. We are moving from an environment where data is structured to one in which data can be of many types. And within this inflationary growth of information, we have to distinguish between those that are vital for the enterprise, others needing to be archived over a longer period for regulationary or legal reasons, and yet other types of data we can destroy without any risk, or archive for a limited timespan.
  • In this context, however, nobody wants to have to wait around to access the data they need. This assumes that different levels of service need to be agreed with users, something that is not always easy to provide.
  • Another major phenomenon: in the digital society, information is at the heart of the business in every single sector of the economy: telecommunications, finance, industry, the public sector...
  • Finally, IT budgets are quite simply inadequate when it comes to matching this level of growth, unless we radically change the way we manage data – despite the fact that budgets allocated to increasing storage requirements are growing, on average, by more than 5% per year.

Undeniably, businesses are in a relatively unprecedented situation. Nevertheless, suppliers have not been resting on their laurels, having made real efforts to find solutions. This is precisely the idea behind Bull’s latest initiative on storage.

In the survey you carried out among IT Departments across in Europe, are you already starting to uncover some significant trends?

Absolutely. Most notably, we have established that whole segments of data in the information system are not taken into account by storage management systems. More than half of storage managers questioned by IDC do not know how to measure the amount of data there is in their organizations outside the Data Center, or they have, at best, a very sketchy idea.
While it is still a bit early to draw conclusions from the survey – which will be distributed exclusively by Bull in the coming weeks – we have noticed that most enterprises are fully aware of the issues, and the difficulties, that data management presents, and will do in the years to come. Hence the need to radically change the way data management is implemented.
But over and above this increase in awareness, our survey shows that a whole section of the information system is often completely overlooked: this is the part that is concerned with data not handled by the Data Center. Data held in branch offices, on personal digital assistants (PDAs) or telephone systems are apparently not integrated well enough within the processes designed to protect, back-up and archive data. And a large number of IT managers we interviewed (51%) have no idea how much of this data there is in their organizations the, and therefore what degree of risk their enterprise is taking in if it is not included in their backup and archiving processes.

What advice would you give to storage managers to help them manage their knowledge capital more effectively?

We recommend a five-step plan to achieve an efficient level of data management
1. Classify your data and applications according to their importance to the business activity concerned. This is the most important step to achieving an efficient and future-proof storage strategy.
2. Determine which storage technology is most appropriate for each class of data. The majority of data can be stored in secondary or tertiary storage devices, and does not need to clutter up costly primary storage.
3. For strategic data, use new technologies to improve recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs), because the investment is justified through improved service levels for the data that is the lifeblood of the organization.
4. For less important data, use the cheapest storage technologies in order to bring down storage cost. ‘Good enough’ is a viable strategy for this class of data.
5. Focus on data and storage management! Being able to manage data across heterogeneous environments, as much at the level of data sources as of storage technologies, will provide the necessary global view, and will improve efficiency. You have to be carefully since deploying new technologies, like virtualization, on servers will mean that the storage infrastructure has to be reorganized. In other respects, we would advise finding a solution that manages both virtualized and physical environments.

Download white paper published by Bull and IDC
Receive the results of the survey carried out by IDC in Europe

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