Smarter Storage: A Critical Ingredient for Smarter

Service Management in Action

Here's an increasingly important question for IT leaders. "Has your organization really optimized storage—across all users, IT domains, and business services—as much as possible?"

The answer, all too frequently, is no. Even within organizations where IT services, processes, and architectures are considered "advanced," storage management often hasn't kept pace, and isn't nearly as optimized as it could be—or should be.

Why? This is partly because IT has tended to focus on optimizing servers. Server virtualization is well understood, widely implemented, and continues to deliver impressive results—yet storage virtualization has been left relatively unexploited. And beyond the issue of virtualization, storage also usually continues to be managed in a traditional fashion, on a host-by-host or service-by-service basis. This means users and services cannot quickly or easily be provisioned the storage they need, negatively impacting the agility required to react to changing business conditions.

Even in cases where storage has been virtualized, it usually hasn't been virtualized in the smartest possible way. Instead of policies allocating it fluidly and automatically, based on real-time demand, manual action must be taken—meaning, it's still not possible to leverage storage as a cloud resource. Another issue: specific insight into how storage is being used across the infrastructure isn't always available. This makes it much harder to create a strategy to optimize performance. And because storage is managed differently in different contexts, data isn't as consistently and effectively protected as it should be—a real concern, since data is often the single most valuable asset an organization has.

All of these storage issues are particularly magnified for organizations interested in developing (or currently managing) private clouds. A policy-driven, deeply virtualized architecture such as a cloud simply cannot deliver the optimal ROI unless it manages virtual storage as intelligently and comprehensively as it manages virtual servers.

A single solution makes smart storage an up-and-running reality—today

Among other features, the IBM Storage Analytics Engine can make decisions about what data best belongs on which tiers using performance metrics and real-world patterns of data use—migrating data automatically to the best possible tier, all in a transparent manner that users won't notice.

IBM's response? IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center.

This offering, which combines some of the most powerful and proven technologies in IBM's storage management suite, can help organizations transform storage from a challenge to an opportunity—created by storage that can then be managed far more easily, quickly, and cost-effectively, and that will generate far more business value over time as a result.

Furthermore, it doesn't require rip-and-replace of existing storage systems. Instead, it leverages established standards and protocols to work with the storage systems already invested in—improving their business value dramatically, while requiring relatively little effort to deploy and integrate.

This means that by deploying a single solution—IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center—organizations can get the power needed to virtualize storage, manage it for the highest business value, and to protect their data more efficiently than ever before.

Transform existing storage into cloud storage

Organizations that haven't yet made the leap to storage virtualization should see this as a top priority—now. The reason? Once virtualized, storage can be allocated wherever it needs to go, across all servers, services, and users, all far more easily and at lower costs than via traditional methods.

This means, among other things, that the overall utilization of storage will often climb impressively. In fact, estimates suggest utilization can almost double—going from a typical fifty percent utilization to as high as ninety percent. Getting more use out of storage that's already bought and deployed is simply smarter than buying and deploying more storage, and then getting a fraction of the value from it as you should.

Furthermore, storage virtualization is a critical component to creating and deploying an optimized private cloud. Any organization getting serious about cloud computing should first get serious about virtualizing storage—at the lowest possible cost, and without introducing additional complexity to already complex infrastructures.

And IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center offers the power to do all of that with the storage already in place. Even in cases where storage arrays are exceptionally heterogeneous in vendors or features, IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center allows organizations to pool that storage, unifying it as if it were a single entity.

Once storage is virtualized, it can then fluidly be allocated whenever and wherever it's required—no matter where it is physically located. Instead of a static infrastructure in which storage is tied to particular hosts or services, the infrastructure is now dynamic, and can respond more rapidly and effectively to unexpected workload spikes.

When the spike subsides, the extra allocation can be returned to the pool, minimizing waste. And by automating this process of allocation and deallocation via smart, predefined policies, the groundwork will have been laid to evolve the entire infrastructure in time to a truly optimized private cloud.

Use analytics-driven data management to reduce the costs of storage substantially

Exactly how is storage used in the infrastructure? That's a difficult question to answer in any context, and can be substantially harder to answer as the infrastructure becomes more complex and sophisticated.

Typical goals of storage administrators include the following:

Fortunately, IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center includes many forms of smart analytics that can help administrators achieve just those goals, and many more besides.

For instance, consider the question of storage tiering. Different tiers are characterized by different performance levels, costs, and reliability. A disk array based on solid-state drives, for instance, may provide incredibly fast read/write speeds and high reliability, but it's also relatively expensive, and thus not a good match for services that have relatively low business priority or that simply don't require exceptional performance.

Via the included tiered storage optimization, IBM SmartCloud Virtual Center can track how storage is used, within context—providing the insights needed to tweak the storage strategy in all the ways that matter most.

Among other features, the IBM Storage Analytics Engine can make decisions about what data best belongs on which tiers using performance metrics and real-world patterns of data use—migrating data automatically to the best possible tier, all in a transparent manner that users won't notice. Particularly active data, in high demand, can be shifted to those high-performance flash drives; data of less significance but routine use can be stored on disk; and data that isn't used at all can be migrated to optical media or tape. The result? The proven ability to reduce the unit cost of storage by 50%!1

Protect data more quickly, easily, and consistently across all storage systems and services

If data is the lifeblood of all organizations—the fundamental resource needed to make all decisions and execute all strategies—it follows that protecting that data should be a leading priority.

Unfortunately, that's not always a very straightforward matter given business and IT complexities today. Data volumes, for instance, continue to skyrocket every year, lengthening backup times and in some cases stretching them into primary operating hours. Traditional backup solutions and methodologies may not always continue to work properly, given the evolution of IT infrastructures—if a cloud allocates storage unpredictably to different systems, does that same cloud back up data correspondingly? Also, the overall complexity of the data protection job escalates more every year. As BYOD and the diversity of endpoints increase—some physical, some virtual—the total job faced by a backup administrator just gets more daunting in proportion.

IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center can address these and related problems via a variety of advanced capabilities that combine to protect data more swiftly and completely than ever before.

One such: Snapshot backups. For particularly high-priority data, such as core databases that are constantly accessed and changed for processes like inventory lookups and customer purchasing, the faster and easier it is to execute a backup, the better. That’s why IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center can generate almost instant backups of such data repositories—snapshots that reflect their exact state at a point in time. Because they happen nearly instantly, the organization can easily create far more of them than it could before. And should something happen to that core data, to corrupt it, a very recent snapshot can be restored, with comparable speed, to minimize data loss and mitigate the business impact as much as possible.

The same technique supports backup of virtual machines. Since a cloud is continually generating and modifying its virtual machines, a backup technique that is as advanced as the cloud itself is needed to protect them. IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center not only backs up virtual machines with incredible speed, it also does so with hypervisor agnosticism. Even if a cloud uses hypervisors as varied as VMware, Linux KVM, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Xen, all their virtual machines will be backed up with the same remarkable velocity, using the same policies, across all hosts.

Another advanced feature used to protect data: remote mirroring. Many organizations that support operating environments at multiple locations seek to leverage those disparate locations as a form of data protection; clearly, data that is stored in more than one physical place is better protected than data that is only stored at one place.

Via its Metro Mirror and Global Mirror functions, IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage empowers administrators to copy data from site A to site B with minimal complexity and time required. This alone can substantially improve data protection and business resilience. However, for an even more complete form of protection, cross-site failover can also be set up, so that site A can directly access and use mirrored data that is actually stored at site B for as long as necessary.

Based on IBM’s use of SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center

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