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GCN : September 2015
How to wring every ounce of performance from data center storage BY CHIP GEORGE INDUSTRY INSIGHT MANY PUBLIC-SECTOR CIOs who are at the start of their cloud journey are un- certain how large a role the cloud should play in their overall storage strategies. As a result, they often find it difficult to know where to begin. One of the first steps is conducting a thorough in- ventory of the current data center infrastructure, which is often a heterogeneous mix of server, network and storage platforms. Gartner estimates that storage ca- pacity demands are growing at a rate of 50 percent a year, but storage budgets are expected to grow at less than 10 percent. One way CIOs can ad- dress that challenge is by maximizing current invest- ments in the storage infra- structure. Underutilization is inefficient and wasteful, and there are ways to wring every ounce of performance and disk space out of existing investments before considering the cloud for storage. Three storage efficiency technologies can reap tremendous benefits in both cost and space savings. Making efficient use of ex- isting storage capacity frees up resources for invest- ments in new technologies, including cloud-enabled storage. It also lets agencies compare the costs of cloud services to those of its own data center. • Deduplication. Some of the biggest clogs in any data storage system are related to redundant data. By applying the intelligent compression made pos- sible by deduplication, only one instance of the data is retained on disk. A pointer lets the system know where to find that single stored version. Depending on the workload, deduplication can mean massive savings in terms of disk storage and network traffic. It can also shrink backup windows. But deduplication is not just for backup or archive workloads. In primary workloads, it can help agen- cies store more “hot data” — the business-critical in- formation that needs to be accessed frequently — and deliver better performance. When looking for ways to maximize efficiencies within an existing storage architecture, deduplication is always a smart place to start. • Thin provisioning. All enterprise applications are allotted a set amount of storage to operate, which is referred to as provision- ing. Problems arise when those storage predictions are either too low (causing performance problems) or too high (resulting in un- derutilization on either end of the spectrum). The latter can also lead to fat provi- sioning, where IT shops buy more storage than they need. Thin provisioning lets organizations allocate disk storage space in a flexible manner among multiple us- ers, which saves money by protecting resources from applications that ask for lots of storage upfront and then don’t use it. When an orga- nization plans for several years of predicted use, thin provisioning keeps it from locking or stranding storage where it isn’t being used. • Compression. Compres- sion reduces the number of bits and bytes required to represent data by encod- ing information more efficiently. It can reduce a text file to half its original size. Smaller data is faster to transfer and cheaper to store, and it helps free up precious network bandwidth. Those three technologies can combine to significantly reduce the total amount of storage needed, thereby lowering both capital and operating expenses. Total space savings can range as high as 87 percent from compression alone, depend- ing on the application. Implementing all three approaches can take the savings even higher. Although cloud-enabled storage can provide many avenues for savings, the best place to begin any cloud journey is with a comprehensive inventory of the data center to find places where the existing storage investments can do more. Getting back to basics is a great way to prioritize storage needs, maximize current storage assets and figure out how to eventually make cloud-enabled stor- age a key component of an overall storage plan. • — Chip George is director of NetApp’s state and local government and education business. Efficient use of existing storage capacity frees up resources for investments in new technologies, including cloud-enabled storage. 14 GCN SEPTEMBER 2015 • GCN.COM 0915gcn_014.indd 14 8/31/15 9:36 AM