Remote office support
Remote data technologies include products and services such as remote replication, WAN accelerators and remote vaulting. These tools and services, from vendors like Asigra Inc., Riverbed Technology Inc. and Softek Storage Solutions Corp., help organizations to move data between geographically separate locations.
Large companies are recognizing the need to streamline and centralize data management and storage functions performed at satellite locations. There's also a need to maintain copies of data at separate locations for disaster recovery purposes. In addition, small- and mid-sized organizations, especially those with limited IT resources, are turning to these technologies, which are often packaged as simple appliances.
"We expect WAN file services, network accelerators and remote vaulting to all get bigger in 2006," says Greg Schulz, senior analyst at Evaluator Group Inc., Greenwood Village, CO. These technologies simplify and speed the process of getting stored data from remote locations across the network to a central site, where the data can be stored, managed and backed up.
Millard Lumber Inc., Omaha, NE, is a building materials distributor with six remote locations across the Midwest. Its Unix-based ERP system and Windows networks are operated from the Omaha headquarters and connect via 256K Frame Relay links to production work occurring at the remote sites. The problem? "We have no IT staff in the remote locations," says Joel Russell, Millard Lumber's vice president of special projects.
The firm deployed Riverbed Technology's Steelhead WAN accelerator appliances, one in each office. Costing approximately $20,000 each, the appliances capture and compress data at each office and send it to headquarters where it's stored and backed up. "Users don't notice a thing," says Russell. "In fact, they think access through Riverbed is even faster than before."
The biggest hurdle in the adoption of these technologies is bandwidth. "If you're limited to low-speed links, remote replication might be a problem," Karp notes. But products that provide compression and network acceleration can overcome even that.
The disk drive buried deep inside the storage array has suddenly become a hot technology. As SAS and SATA drives double their speeds—the first steps on road-maps that will take them to 10Gb/sec and beyond—disks are taking on new tasks in the backup process.
"The new SAS and SATA drives will change key storage dynamics, particularly in backup and recovery," says Arun Taneja, founder and consulting an-alyst at Taneja Group, Hopkinton, MA. For example, low-cost, high-performance SATA drives make disk-based backup practical on a widespread basis for the first time. Previously, disk-based backup was reserved for only the most critical databases.
The compatibility between the new SAS and 3Gb/sec SATA II drives—SATA drives can plug into the SAS backplane—will also open up new opportunities for tiered storage, says Dave Reinsel, program director, storage research at IDC, Framingham, MA. Within the same array, companies can mix higher cost, higher performance SAS drives and lower cost, lower performance SATA drives. "Large organizations will keep the different tiers of storage on different boxes, but smaller organizations don't want a bunch of boxes," adds Reinsel. This will allow them to get two tiers in one box.
Evans & Sutherland Computer Corp., Salt Lake City, which produces systems for planetarium displays, purchased 7TB of SATA disk from BlueArc Corp. "We keep originals of our shows online. This is read-only data, and the files get very large," says Melinda Orms, Evans & Sutherland's system administrator. The firm has a Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. SAN with 26TB of storage built around an EVA5000 loaded with high-performance Fibre Channel (FC) drives for production work. For the read-only files, it turned to SATA "because [it] lets us get a lot of disk for less money," Orms notes.
Storage expects 3Gb/sec SATA II drives to become the standard for low-cost, second-tier storage and disk-based backup. SAS will go wherever organizations use parallel SCSI today. Still to be seen is whether SAS, which brings enterprise-class features like dual porting and full duplex mode, will cut into the use of FC drives.