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How Cloud Solves the IT Maintenance Dilemma – Part 2

A deeper look into the data storage maintenance dilemma

In Part 1 of this series, we highlighted Enterprise Strategy Group’s 2012 Spending Intentions Survey, showing that organizations plan to spend 60-72% of IT budget maintaining existing infrastructure in 2012. This second installment takes a deeper look at the maintenance cost of data storage infrastructure and how cloud technologies can help.

Consider the IT burden of maintaining data storage. Regardless of industry, data storage capacities are constantly growing and on-premise storage arrays require upgrade and replacement on a regular basis. This results in a constant stream of maintenance tasks.

Let’s take an example:  Assume an organization stores data across 6 separate storage arrays. A typical 3-year life cycle per storage array would mandate at least two migrations/retirements of storage arrays per year in addition to two new storage array purchases.  And remember, each time a storage array purchase is required, there’s a qualification process that precedes the purchase. Also, if each storage array requires three software upgrades per year, 18 total upgrades would need to be orchestrated annually in a way that minimizes business risk. Let’s not forget that hardware and network failures, which may not cause outages thanks to RAID-protection and redundancy, also require manual intervention and repair.

The maintenance burden increases further when you add multiple provisioning operations every week and daily tape backups that may include coordination of tape transport off-premise. Finally, consider the unplanned restore operation from data loss, viruses or other unforeseen events. Below is a chart that illustrates some typical storage maintenance tasks and their frequency on an annual basis from the scenario described above:

Can using cloud storage help reduce the maintenance burden? The answer is yes. However, while it may seem ideal to move all storage to the cloud, that may not always be practical. A good starting point is the growing data stored by many organizations which is infrequently accessed and is often retained online for compliance purposes or for internal retention. Why store all of that data on-premise and use IT personnel to maintain it? Instead, consider moving less frequently accessed data to the cloud. Moving a portion of storage infrastructure to the cloud reduces the administrative burden proportionally across all of the aforementioned operations. At the same time, it may entirely eliminate the need for off-site tape backup and/or off-site storage management.

Thanks to cloud storage gateways like CloudArray, storing data to a choice of cloud storage providers is as easy and secure as storing data locally. Storage gateways can reside alongside existing storage infrastructure and offer tiers of storage in the cloud that require virtually no administration, maintenance or replacement. In fact, the majority of storage maintenance operations in the chart above are drastically reduced. With software or hardware form factors to choose from, gateways have a very small on-premise footprint but can expand in capacity well past the largest storage arrays available today, without the constant need for upgrades.

If your business is currently spending too much of its IT budget and time on maintenance, consider using the cloud.  It offers your IT staff a new level of freedom to help build value for your business.

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More Stories By Nicos Vekiarides

Nicos Vekiarides is the Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of TwinStrata. He has spent over 20 years in enterprise data storage, both as a business manager and as an entrepreneur and founder in startup companies.

Prior to TwinStrata, he served as VP of Product Strategy and Technology at Incipient, Inc., where he helped deliver the industry's first storage virtualization solution embedded in a switch. Prior to Incipient, he was General Manager of the storage virtualization business at Hewlett-Packard. Vekiarides came to HP with the acquisition of StorageApps where he was the founding VP of Engineering. At StorageApps, he built a team that brought to market the industry's first storage virtualization appliance. Prior to StorageApps, he spent a number of years in the data storage industry working at Sun Microsystems and Encore Computer. At Encore, he architected and delivered Encore Computer's SP data replication products that were a key factor in the acquisition of Encore's storage division by Sun Microsystems.

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