SANs require standardized management software
E-commerce is growing dramatically due to increasing numbers of Internet users who appreciate the speed and convenience of online transactions. As a result, most companies are expanding beyond bricks-and-mortar storefronts to online sites that extend traditional business models. Data is flowing across networks in unprecedented levels as transactions are logged, verified and stored for later use. This explosive growth in e-commerce is driving demand for storage solutions that can accommodate all these online transactions.
Worldwide Internet sales are predicted to reach $3.2 trillion by 2003, and account for nearly 9% of all sales revenue, according to Forrest Research, Inc. But there is more to e-commerce than just sales revenue. E-commerce transactions can also take place within a company--behind a firewall--as intranet transactions.
The explosive growth in e-commerce transactions and storage requirements is spurring an increased level of interest in storage area networks (SANs). Companies know they need to consolidate existing storage to provide multiple access points for Web servers and intranet applications.
A SAN is a collection of storage devices that share a common network, with a specific storage protocol that connects them all together. All of the devices on a SAN are accessible from a number of servers, typically over a Fibre Channel interconnect.
As companies consider implementing SANs, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. For example, heterogeneity is critical because there is a huge disparity in the types of platforms that need to be supported. That`s not only true for storage devices, but also for the variety of servers connected to the network. So, in addition to the increase in e-commerce transactions, companies are struggling to provide widespread access to storage at diverse locations.
Storage management is becoming a more complex issue to deal with in these mixed environments. The more heterogeneous and distributed the environment, the more critical management is to the entire operation. A dramatic portion of the total cost of storage can be attributed to administrators` time, not just to the cost of the hardware. What companies need is a way to simplify storage management so that they can reduce their operational costs.
A storage industry initiative is currently underway to simplify the interfaces to storage products and provide a consolidated network storage management solution that works in a simple, intelligent and automated way. With the active participation of more than 30 vendors, the Jiro initiative (www.jiro.com) plans to produce an open storage management platform to easily manage mixed environments of networked servers and storage devices.
Using Java and Jini technologies, the Jiro platform will enable more flexible and scalable networked storage solutions with technologies that allow multiple vendors` systems to work together as a more cohesive and manageable unit.
SANs will make it possible to take some of the functionality typically embedded in hardware and have it appear as software services on the storage network. Software will be increasingly important, but it will not be tied to individual pieces of hardware. The real future of SANs depends on companies cooperating to develop software technology that is applicable across a wide range of devices and implementations, facilitating the growth of open storage solutions.
A profitable e-commerce strategy hinges on managing the growing banks of data and the complexity of networked storage requirements. This management solution cannot be developed by any one company or by a small set of companies. Rather, it will require the storage industry to come together as a whole.
Dan Adams is technical marketing manager, Jiro, at Sun Microsystems Inc.