Cloud Storage Dominates Storage Networking World

By Drew Robb

SANTA CLARA, CALIF - Cloud storage is front and center at Storage Networking World (SNW) this week. Randy Mott, CIO of HP, provided the Tuesday morning keynote, discussing his company’s IT transformation over the past five years. Back then, it had 85 data centers in 29 countries running more 7,000 applications, 700 data marts and 1240 active business projects.  

“We brought that down to six data centers in three geographic zones running less than 1,700 apps, one enterprise data warehouse and less than 500 active projects,” said Mott. “At the same time, we reduced contractor IT work form 50 percent to 10 percent while dropping IT spend from 4 percent of revenues down to 2 percent.”

These new data centers amount to 578,000 square feet in the vicinity of Houston and Austin, Texas, as well as Alpharetta, Georgia. They make heavy use of HP technology for storage, networking, servers, remote data center monitoring and more. Some areas are set up as a private cloud and other parts strictly operate within internal data centers.

On the power/cooling side, the company is big on renewable energy and environmental responsibility. As such, 10 percent of its electricity usage is from wind. This is supplemented by 214 kW of solar power on campus. To reduce water consumption, it follows several strategies. A water-cooled chiller uses on-site wells. Waste water is treated and used for irrigation on site.

“We have 3X’d our power consumption per square foot while using 60% less energy usage overall,” said Mott.

Jack Domme, CEO of Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), challenged the storage industry to grab its proper role as the owner of content. The channel for this, he said, was cloud computing.

“By 2014 there will be a billion applications in existence,” he said. “The storage industry has the responsibility to ensure that any and all data is searchable anytime, anywhere.”

This information has to live independently of the applications in a storage cloud as opposed to the current model where it is trapped inside application or storage silos. He sees storage evolving to take on the role of centralized governance of content. But that requires a huge change of emphasis with further waves of storage virtualization. Most storage silos, said Domme, don’t scale beyond 10 to 30 TB. Pretty soon, the requirement will be petabyes and then exabytes.

“Apps can’t keep track of that amount of data,” said Domme. “Storage will have to rise to the challenge and take charge of the data independent of the applications.”

He ended with an example of cloud-based storage to show how a content cloud could be created – in this case, a hospital in Austria utilizing HDS disk arrays as the underlying infrastructure.

Jay Kerley, Deputy CIO of Applied Materials, continued the theme with an explanation of how his company adopted a cloud computing platform to eliminate expensive high-end workstations from the desktop to provide and share Computer Aided Design (CAD) files and applications across a global network of manufacturing sites.

“Users don't need the data in their desktop, they only need its visualization,” said Kerley. “We utilized desktop blades with a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) to replace workstations.”

Jeff Rountree, Global Network Manager of Pump Solutions Group, provided another example of a large business opting for cloud storage.

He uses Riverbed Whitewater accelerators as a backup target. These accelerators encrypt, deduplicate and compress data as it is transmitted to a cloud server provider (AT&T).

“Using this pay-as-you-go model really keeps my costs down,” said Rountree.

He makes the point that by deduping, 100 GB of backup is shrunk down to less than 10 GB that he needs to pay for. Using the cloud has also reduced his restore times while adding far more sophisticated Disaster Recovery (DR) systems as part of the cloud computing package.

“The benefits of the cloud are cost reduction, no more tape restores, more flexible DR and saving up to two hours per day in administrative overhead,” said Rountree.

Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group, sees the cloud as the latest vehicle that IT is using to evolve more efficient mechanisms for data delivery. Yes, there is plenty of hype. But this new model is serving a worthwhile purpose, assisting organizations to do more with less, and eliminate complexity.

“Clouds are real,” said Schulz. “They are here to stay.”

This article was originally published on April 05, 2011