For too long, many have looked upon storage as a business necessity rather than something that can drive competitive edge. Over recent years, however, that perception has started to change. Those that fail to correctly invest in storage or modernise their data centres, risk losing out in the long-term, as their rivals become better-equipped to deal with the growing number of IT challenges they’re posed with.
It is this context that helps to explain why, according to IDC (1) hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) systems are the fastest growing segment in the converged or integrated systems market. The shift to a new approach to data centre infrastructure is fuelled by shrinking or static budgets and overloaded IT teams, all while demands from the business and requests from end users to IT keeps increasing. And that’s where new advances in virtual storage come in.
Virtual storage has proven itself to be the very bedrock upon which modern competitive advantage can be built. It helps an organisation to prepare for tomorrow’s dynamic business, supporting the need for an always on mind set, increased security and the demand to provide a return-on-investment (ROI). Without it, organisations could find themselves falling behind, something I would like to explore in a little further depth.
Ensuring business continuity
Business continuity is something many organisations take for granted but it can very easily become an issue when attempting to digitally transform the business. As organisations deploy multiple data centres, a break between the two locations can occur, meaning a backup from one site is required to continue. Stretched clustering offered by virtual storage solutions, help to address this issue across multiple data centres. If one site ever goes down, a second can carry on completely uninterrupted while intelligently creating and keeping a back-up of data while it works.
Danish grocery story Coop benefitted directly from this. After moving all its servers onto one single physical server platform, the retailer soon had an issue on its hands. Every Thursday at 12pm for two minutes all its systems would shut down entirely. It took several weeks to realise that the issue resulted from its anti-virus system, which would download a new pattern definition file at the same time, onto all 1 300 servers, effectively shutting down the whole infrastructure – the retailer was effectively at a standstill as transactions could not be processed. This led to the expensive move of moving some systems onto separate storage platforms.
After Coop deployed VMWare’s virtual storage platform, vSAN, it could guarantee business continuity. The enhanced performance of virtualised storage meant that despite the anti-virus system continuing to download the pattern definition file, it did not affect the system performance at all It also meant that the retailer could rely on vSAN as the single solution for its storage needs, making it a cost-effective choice.
This is part of the reason why software-defined storage today underpins every business process for Coop all the way from the tills in the stores, through to the provisioning of goods from the warehouses and all headquarter processes.
Enhancing security through virtual security zones
Software-defined storage is also being used by organisations today to solve a major IT headache the need to keep one step ahead of increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks. vSAN’s latest offering provides encryption tools that allow customers to encrypt the data as it comes to rest so that security can be built into the data as it moves around. Virtual storage platforms can also seamlessly plug into the network, something that helps to dramatically enhance its efficiency and security.
Taking full advantage of cost savings
Another string to the bow of virtual storage is the potential return on investment and cost savings it can bring to an organisation, something that New College Durham could take full advantage of. After being challenged by the UK government to significantly cut costs, it was forced to find a way to replace its existing storage area network (SAN) and it opted for a software-defined alternative. The University could experience immediate cost savings between Â£100k – Â£120k, simply by not refreshing physical storage area networks.
The initial platform deployment also helped dramatically save on operational costs, such as modifying service levels and speeding up workload configuration. Virtual storage solutions essentially shift the expenses of human resources, so that the configuration of individual pieces of hardware in the data centre can be managed by an inexpensive virtual layer, without the need for human intervention.
Storage is no longer merely about the mundane task of ensuring a business has the capacity to keep hold of data. IT departments struggling with budgetary constraints, security issues and business continuity can benefit from new advances in virtual storage to tackle those challenges head on.
It’s time to change the perception of storage from a part of the technology stack that is needed to store data to a vital element of a software-defined foundation on which a company can build its competitive edge. Those companies that donate switch to this always on mind set, risk losing out to faster, more agile, and better-secured competitors. The data modernisation shift is happening now; falling behind could leave businesses always having to play catch-up.