Storage virtualization heats up

By Ken Male

This article is based on interviews with more than 150 Fortune 1000 storage professionals conducted by TheInfoPro (TIP). TIP surveys (“waves”) are conducted every six months.

Adoption of storage virtualization is accelerating in Fortune 1000 companies, with many IT organizations planning to implement virtualization first to manage unstructured data and NAS environments.

Over the last few years, NAS capacity at Fortune 1000 companies has approximately doubled every six months, according to TheInfoPro surveys, leaving companies with a large amount of unstructured data and corresponding data management challenges.

In TIP’s Storage Management study conducted earlier this year, IT professionals commented on 19 technologies.

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Some interesting dynamics unfolded from the interviews related to the growth of unstructured data:

  • Virtualization software is becoming a “hot” technology as evidenced by a score of 75 on the TIP Storage Management Technology Heat Index (see figure, above), with many survey participants saying that NAS is a logical place to begin virtualization implementations; and
  • Information life-cycle management (ILM) also scored high in the most recent survey, and many respondents cited ILM products specific to unstructured data as being a logical place to begin ILM implementations.

The TIP Storage Management Technology Heat Index measures the relative immediacy of technology adoption projects and their likelihood of occurring and is weighted by end users’ projected storage spending. The result is an effective measure of users’ near-term “demand” for specific technologies and is based on a normalized scale from 0 to 100, with 100 being the “hottest” technology.

In the most recent TIP survey, Fortune 1000 storage professionals were also asked about their adoption plans for virtualization. Today, less than 20% of the surveyed companies are using virtualization, but adoption is expected to more than double by year-end and to more than triple by the end of 2006 (see figure, below).

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One survey respondent from a Fortune 100 financial services company said: “The problem we have is breaking up volumes and moving them around. It is very disruptive and we cannot get users and business units to agree to move things. It would be great if we could use virtualization to break things down so they are more manageable and easier to present to users. We have 33,000 servers so it is very labor-intensive to migrate data…”

According to TIP’s interviews, storage professionals need to seamlessly move data between tiers of storage based on access patterns and on the relative importance of the data to the business. Survey respondents repeatedly said that one of their biggest “pain points” is how manual and tedious the process is today to move data between storage tiers.

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Virtualization and ILM products from major vendors have only recently become available from major vendors, which is why the adoption rates for both technologies are relatively slow (see figure, above).

Key drivers for both virtualization and ILM are that end users need help with the persistent issue of understanding allocated versus utilized capacity, and many storage professionals view virtualization and some type of ILM product as a way to overcome these challenges.

As one TIP survey respondent stated: “Ultimately we think the right way to get to HSM [hierarchical storage management] and ILM is with virtualization as an enabler….Help with allocated versus utilized capacity would be great. We have a lot of disk assigned that we know is getting poor utilization. In addition, we need to keep about 20% [of the capacity] unallocated for emergencies.”

Some respondents said they planned to begin their virtualization implementations in NAS environments. As one user said: “It seems like some of the virtualization and ILM products will find a home with [NAS] filers initially, which is not a bad way to get started.”

In the latest survey, respondents said that tiered storage is not just for SANs but is also for NAS. The trend toward tiered storage-combined with explosive NAS capacity growth-creates data management, data movement, and capacity utilization challenges. A large percentage of storage professionals surveyed plan to use virtualization and ILM products to address those challenges.

Ken Male is CEO and founder of TheInfoPro (TIP-www.thein fopro.net), an independent IT research firm in New York City.

This article was originally published on August 01, 2005