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Tue 16 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Data storage unpicked

The demand for more advanced and flexible storage options increasing, we talk to the key players about the latest products and what they can do for your business.

The demand for more advanced and flexible storage options increasing, we talk to the key players about the latest products and what they can do for your business.

Recent government regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, require businesses to maintain and back up a variety of data they might have otherwise deleted so for legal reasons, many small businesses are now archiving e-mail messages dating back five or more years.

Not only is this rise in accountability to blame but the expansiveness of the internet, its viruses and spyware, requires ever more vigilant backup and more storage capacity. For the small business leader all this spells extra cost.

The best in the industry according to EMC for fault tolerance is the 5 9's approach which means the only amount of unexpected downtime in a year is not more than 5.26 mins.

Each new version of a software application or operating system also demands more hard-drive real estate than its predecessor. And it is not just the pervasiveness of the internet that is to blame.

The growing need to store large media files, such as video, and make them available to users on a network is generating demand for more sophisticated storage solutions.

What these storage solutions need to take account of - as well as the businesses controlling them - is the issue of security which, as the number of mobile workers rise, is a growing correlative.

Martha Young from business consulting company Nova Amber LLC has this advice on how to protect your PC's, smartphones and PDA's from external threats; the biggest one being the threat to your bottom line. If you consider these things when purchasing new storage you'll be able to serve your customer better which will result in better and more profitable business.

Establish who needs access and the level of access they need.

Implement storage access controls; with the theft of mobile equipment on the rise, make sure your devices have inbuilt security software that will prevent any sensitive data getting into the wrong hands.

Systemitise data storage procedures: Decide who will conduct back-ups, who will secure the data set, how the data will be secured and for how long. Set up a written storage policy and include information of how to use USB Storage devices, such as remote wiping capabilities and extra password protection. Try Bluefire security technologies and Credant Technologies for help.

Make the most of your storage provider: utilise their expansive knowledge as your own, they will want to keep you happy and in their custom.

The problem for any business is how to rise to these challenges without incurring the costs that integrating a whole new system would inevitably incur.

Such dramatic changes would entail long delays as the old system was closed and replaced with the new one, normal working hours disrupted and staff reorganized, all of which has to be managed with the right knowledge and experience.

Whats the best storage package to go for?

For businesses that can't afford to install a new storage solution there is Sun Microsystems. David A. Beck Storage Practice Manager for MENA.

Sun Microsystems, Inc told us about their latest thinking. Their system of data storage ticks all the boxes and negates the bind of getting tied into a single provider.

What often happens says Beck is that the service providers increase their prices and the customer can't afford to keep up; especially in these times of financial crisis.

According to Beck, small businesses need something that is scalable which is basically that they can be scaled up or down depending on how much it is being asked to do. Another thing they look for is cost-per-gigabyte and fault tolerance.

If a system rates highly on these points, you are on the right track but beyond that it is simply a case of deciding how much capacity your company needs.

The best in the industry according to EMC for fault tolerance is the 5 9's approach which means the only amount of unexpected downtime in a year is not more than 5.26 mins.Antonello Lunco Technical Support Engineer from Quantum also has some tips. If you need to keep things in archival format, tape is the best kind but if instant access is then you need to be thinking of on-line and disk. Things to remember (courtesy of EMC)

Storage virtualisation

This refers to the level of storage you need; you determine it and it is sent to you via the Internet. The solution would be an enterprise array like DMX & CLARiiON, the file level would be Rainfinity or on a fabric level INVISTA. Fault tolerance

Fault tolerance enables a system to continue operation, with very little to no reduction in performance, through put and response time, when some part of the system fails.

Today the industry measures it in terms of average uptime a system has in a year. The best in the industry is the 5 9's approach which means the only amount of unexpected downtime in a year is not more than 5.26 mins. EMC recommends CLARiiON & DMX.

Scalability

If a system is inbuilt with Scalability, it has the ability to grow with your company's needs. The key characteristic of a scalable solution is that additional load only requires additional resources rather than memory or a big adjustment to the solution itself. Data de-duplication

In storage technology, de-duplication is exactly what the term suggests, it undoes the tendency for over-duplication, so what is left is just one copy of the material. All data is indexed however so that it can be retrieved if needed.

Your storage capacity is not reduced, saving you money in the long term. Done at source rather than at target is most effective.

Transparent data access

A seamless access of storage (data) without depending on underlying physical infrastructure for needs of block level (EMC Array storage and INVISTA) or file level access (i.e. Rainfinity)

Large scale multi-tier archives

Multi-tiered archiving provides the ability to store/retrieve information giving benefits for speed, performance, reliability and business impact.

A large scale multi-tier archiving gives the flexibility of a back-up to disk with a disk type performance using Disk Library. (i.e. using SATA disks, EMC Disk Libraries & Regular Tape Libraries)

Storage and data consolidation

Storage consolidation mainly refers to the concept of centralized storage where resources are shared among multiple applications and users. This provides a high degree of utilization and optimization of resources and is at the same time an efficient way to conduct backups.

The HP Eva 4400

The EVA4400 offers enterprise class virtual storage array for midsized customers at an affordable price with built in virtualization, it is designed to improve capacity utilization and be easy to manage, which lowers the cost of ownership.

It has high performance and scales easily so that it can adapt as your company grows. It provides broad operating system support with proven integration with major applications, such as Microsoft Exchange, Oracle and SAP.

The EVA4400 has robust local and remote replication capabilities with HP Business Copy EVA and HP Continuous Access EVA software. With HP Command View EVA and HP Dynamic Capacity Management software, management and storage provisioning will save time.Thanks to the inbuilt Bladesystem which, "wired once and racked up once (Users merely push a blade into a chassis) and get all the power and networking they need."

This frees data centers from having to cable central processing units (CPU), power units, data communications, and other IT devices each time they add or replace compute power.

"It's about integration. The more you integrate, the more you save," says Ishan Sehgal, IBM's program director of BladeCenter Marketing.

Interview with Ashraf Helmy - HP

Is there a particular segment of the sme market that you are focusing on ie retail, construction, catering, and if so, why?

The Middle East region has a wide range of segments that draw our attention. Obviously existing areas of activity such as construction and engineering organizations are traditional HP customers.

Successful small businesses don't stay small for long-the storage solution must be flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of a business. With the ongoing construction boom, companies have to manage dozens of projects that require very tight team interaction and access to a wide range of information.

One of the main focus areas will be the security and surveillance area (CCTV) where, HP Middle East can rely on both a solid solution offering as well as on enviable references.

Also, due to the demographic growth municipalities are stocking up on database storage in order to provide electronic services to citizens and residents, file storage for e-government forms and Rich Media for urban planning.

Last but not least, HP was a major sponsor of this year's recent RealTech convention where HP and developers came together to discuss development, building control and automation, environmental and energy management.

A new area will be the smaller SME's that we target with AiO storage, NAS, D2D and Tape backup solutions.

How does your data storage system make use of the latest technology or research in the field?

There are new standards that all our systems must comply with, such as IP, iSCSI, FC, SAS, FCoE and Infiniband. Part of our program to harness these technologies was our recent agreement with Lefthand Networks, a leader in iSCSI storage networks.

Another technology that has reached maturity is Virtualization which can be used across all levels: application, server, network and storage.

With offerings like the Enterprise Virtual Array based and virtualized External Storage on XP24000, HP leads the way in adding intelligence to storage. That SME's can benefit from ‘Enterprise Virtual Arrays' is made possible by the EVA4400 system with an entry price point of less than 20,000USD.

Another field of research is Application Virtualization and Consolidation. SME's can consolidate dozens of SQL applications and/or file servers and aggregate them in a robust and reliable system, while increasing utilization rates and hence reducing costs.

A lightning example is Oracle's choice of HP as server and storage partner for database performance enhancement with the ORACLE Exastorage.

Deduplication is about reducing the backup and replication capacity by a factor of x50 and more, and is a breakthrough technology in the Enterprise area. However, HP has been successful in announcing an SME range of deduplication products, the D2D2500 and D2D4000 systems.

These have reduced complexity and the addition of plug and play functionality.

Integration with the ExDS9100 and a price point of about 1,7USD/GB, HP is announcing this month a dedicated extreme storage device for digital content with a capacity of nearly 1PB.

Blade technology has opened the doors to unequalled Datacenter-in-a-Box solutions that integrate Server, DAS storage, SAN, NAS, Clustered NAS, Backup and Tape in one enclosure. Virtualization research in the field of connectivity has issued HP Virtual Connect, reducing cabling and human efforts.Application-centric storage provisioning is in research and development with partners like Microsoft, Oracle and VMware. This will allow for easy to provision storage devices without the need for storage experts and focusing on application demands.

Are there any changes or trends you foresee in the market?

Recently we have seen an increase in requests for more enterprise features into midrange storage solutions in order to cope with the growing need for storage capacity. Some of them are:

1. Virtualization 2. Consolidation 3. Management 4. New applications (access control, rich media, broadcasting, archiving

Medium enterprises are reluctant to invest in the dedicated manpower to manage their storage. Storage has to be easy and simple, simply StorageWorks.

What are the problems facing sme's and how does your product help them tackle these?

The sudden growth and the dynamics of the region may prompt customers to purchase proprietary solutions that address only specific storage needs. However, manpower does not grow accordingly and businesses are looking for intuitive ways to manage growing and geographically dispersed systems.

Many have departments and/or headquarters throughout the region. They want to integrate and, if possible, pool resources.

For that they can rely on a regional partner like HP who can be a trusted advisor through dedicated partners. There have also been requests for disaster recovery via either a performance backup solution on a remote site or a fully mounted data recovery process.

Given the credit crunch why should companies buy your product?

The credit crunch puts affordability and efficiency in the forefront. Thanks to our industry standard solutions, businesses can grow, expand, redeploy, interconnect and manage a variety of storage solutions.

Some storage expenses, such as management, dataprotection and provisioning activities will not show on a proposal, and the hidden costs may become substantial. Our storage products are straightforward. The All-in-One MSA2000 and the D2D come with click to application storage provisioning features.

We have also invested in promoting industry standard solutions as to reduce the acquisition as well as operating costs. Moreover, we subscribe to the Green IT initiative which aims at reducing environmental costs as well as improving utilization rates.

Besides the system itself is there anything else you offer to enable it to run smoothly, and help the customer get the most out of it, ie. IT support or warranty?

HP Storage Essentials Standard Edition software allows for SME's to conduct self-diagnosis of Application to Lun storage processes. Dependencies between Applications and Storage devices are made visible, performance, quality thresholds and alerts can be set.

All HP products are offered with warranty that can be extended with worldwide support for up to five years after the product has been withdrawn from the pricelist. Customers can choose a wide variety of support levels including 9x5 and 24x7 from the CarePack.  This is a set of deliverables, a guarantee to the customer of certain service level commitments regardless of customer, geography or size.

With more than 1000 HP employees in the Middle East and a vast partner network, customers can rest assured of continued support for their environments.

Which will be the new technologies to watch in the coming months or years?

De-duplication and its deployment of which we offer two types: Dynamic De-duplication for SME's and high performance and scalable accelerated Deduplication for Enterprises.

MAID is a newer concept. Today the best idle media for storage when not used is still Tape.

• Storage ‘Forever' (how to store information for decades, and longer,...) • SSD drives (have now been introduced in the EVA 4400 and HP Storageworks XP20000/24000• Tape Drive improvements • QOS • Extreme Data Storage RELATED LINK:Must-have IT tools you can't live without

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