Stoking The Storage Machine - InformationWeek

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Stoking The Storage Machine

After three years of spending cuts, storage capacity is expected to rise next year

Storage area networks are groups of servers connected with pools of storage devices via Fibre Channel. CarePlus Medical Centers LLC maintains 11 health-care centers across Dade County, Fla., serving 300,000 patients. Bill Bounds, director of IT at CarePlus, has the approval to deploy an IBM-based SAN next year with about 7 terabytes of capacity. "We also want a redundant data center for failover, and I expect electronic records by midyear," Bounds says.

Electronic records and imaging will be very important to the health-care industry in the coming years, and Hackensack University Medical Center expects to increase capacity from 28 terabytes this year to 62 terabytes next year, supporting new efforts ranging from radiology to scanned images for employee IDs. The medical center hopes to leverage the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Virtual Array storage system it has in place. "Instead of islands of storage, we'll be storing data in a central place," says Ed Martinez, the medical center's IT director. "The big advantage is centralized management, rapid information recovery, growth on demand, and adjusting to new types of data."

CarePlus will move forward with an IBM-based SAN next year, Bounds says.

Photo by Tom Salyer
Jay Kidd, VP of marketing at Brocade Communications Systems Inc., says falling storage-network component prices--including Brocade's--should attract customers who haven't bought before, particularly in small and midsize businesses. "When the economic grueling winter began, SAN was still new," Kidd says. Next year, small and midsize business customers "can look at success at larger companies and match that with falling prices."

In the case of Union Bank of California, the business was using only 13 terabytes of 27 terabytes of capacity. Next year, Rick Curry, VP of enterprise server support at the bank, hopes to operate storage as a generic resource. "We plan to take back ownership of the physical resource and turn it into a utility service," Curry says.

Union Bank stores everything on high-end Symmetrix storage devices from EMC Corp. and uses Brocade switches to keep storage separate from the servers. And Curry hopes someday to run some applica- tions at the network level with Brocade. "In 2004, we hope to eliminate redundancy in software licensing, dive into midtier storage, and come up with charge-back processes for the business units," he says.

Big jumps in capacity would be a nightmare without management tools to help, Webster says, but 2004 should also be the year when these tools come of age. "Management is coming together now, and small vendors--like AppIQ and Creek Path--are helping to automate the storage network," he says. "We should also experience the acquisition of the little guys by big guys."

Virtualization--combining multiple storage arrays into a layer providing a single view--is what customers should look for, says Jeff Barnett, manager of market strategy at IBM storage software. Virtualization will mean intelligence to pool together storage resources and find underutilized capacity on existing devices, Barnett says. "If the resources are broken up into 10 new arrays, that's not useful. With virtualization, it could all be used as one continuous space."

Still, some storage users are sticking with the systems they have. Terry Gaasterland, head of the laboratory of computational genomics at Rockefeller University, a biomedical research institute, is working with more genomes, creating larger amounts of data. "We already grew from 300 Gbytes to 3 terabytes, and I expect us to reach 10 to 20 terabytes over the next two to five years," Gaasterland says.

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