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Surviving the Coming Storage War

By Michael Vizard  |  Posted 2008-03-28 Print this article Print

As vendors vie for dominance, enterprises must remind IT staffers who they really work for—the user.

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed an amazing transformation in the way we think about enterprise storage.

Storage used to be little more than a peripheral hanging off our servers. Today, storage systems are the heart of our data centers, and we rely on ever-increasing I/O performance to drive applications that span the enterprise and the Internet.

As business processes continue to expand across the Web, we’re running into greater challenges when it comes to figuring out how to scale our storage assets.

Our first attempts gave birth to technologies such as network-attached storage devices and storage area networks. But as we continue to expand our need to share data, the next generation of storage technology will increasingly provide embedded storage services across wide area networks.

This fundamental change in how we think about and use storage is driving a host of networking companies, including F5 Networks and Cisco Systems, to deliver networking products that have embedded storage. For example, F5 recently released what amounts to a network operating system to manage multi-vendor storage environments based on technology it acquired when it purchased Acopia last year.

What makes this development interesting is how people like Stephen O’Neill, vice president of technology at online advertising consulting firm Oversee.net, are using this technology to better leverage their storage investments.

The F5 products essentially allow O’Neill’s IT team to easily manage large amounts of distributed data without having to hire a lot of additional storage engineers.

The most intriguing thing about this approach is that it requires two IT camps that have historically ignored each other to work a lot more closely together.

For years, the storage wonks in any IT organization tended to hang out in the data center, where their primary concern was optimizing the performance between the servers and storage subsystems.

In today’s distributed computing world, servers are using the network to directly call storage subsystems located anywhere in the enterprise. In order to be truly effective, however, the firmware that manages the storage I/O performance must become a service that resides on the network.

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