Virtualized storage, servers go hand-in-hand

Real savings in data centers can only be realized by tapping on a combination of server and storage virtualization, says NetApp CEO and Chairman Dan Warmenhoven.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Consider the additional impact storage virtualization has on key business requirements today including lowering power and cooling costs and improving asset utilization, a veteran in the storage industry has urged.

Speaking at Singapore's IDA (Infocomm Development Authority) Distinguished Infocomm Speaker series Friday, Dan Warmenhoven, chairman and CEO of NetApp, said businesses need to combine server virtualization with storage virtualization to effectively reap savings in data center power and cooling.

Tapping on a combination of the two virtualization models also allows organizations to achieve savings in physical space as well as improve asset utilization, he added.

Virtualized servers and storage, according to Warmenhoven, lay the foundation for "service-oriented infrastructure", which is necessary for data centers to be dynamic in addressing changing business demands. Companies that take a service-centric--as opposed to application-centric--approach, tap on a standards-based service management model and very often have to make organization adjustments such as personnel changes, he added.

The dynamic data center could also tap on external infrastructure, where cloud computing and outsourcing arrangements come into play, Warmenhoven said.

Storage utilization still a challenge
Citing IDC research, Warmenhoven said that spending on storage constitutes about 23 percent of a typical IT budget, second after servers which account for 27 percent. In addition, storage costs are increasing 50 percent year-on-year.

"My guess is we'll probably see storage costs surpass server costs within the next two years," he noted, adding that storage efficiency was all the more critical for organizations.

On the other hand, Warmenhoven pointed out that storage utilization is typically between 25 percent and 40 percent, which was an "expensive misuse of resources". Storage could be made more efficient with technologies such as thin provisioning, de-duplication and thin cloning, he said.

Symantec's 2008 State of the Data Center Report, released globally earlier this week, suggests that storage utilization has dropped from 2007. Globally, respondents indicated 55 percent storage utilization, down from 60 percent in 2007.

In contrast, data centers in the Asia-Pacific region reported an increase in storage virtualization. The region achieved 60 percent storage utilization last year, compared to 56 percent in 2007, Alvin Ow, Symantec's senior director of system engineering for Asia-Pacific and Japan (APJ) , told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview Thursday.

In particular, data centers located in Singapore had an average utilization of 62 percent, while those in China indicated a utilization level of 61 percent. Facilities based in India recorded slightly lower levels at 54 percent.

"Respondents [in Singapore] were looking at increasing their storage utilization, especially in times like these--they want to make sure they highly optimize the storage they have," noted Ow. "What we've seen is storage purchase continues to be strong--[respondents] are looking at how they can reduce purchasing of additional storage, and having better usage of existing storage."

To better manage storage, businesses need to gain insight into how their storage is being utilized, and then prioritize their storage using technologies such as tiered storage, added Ow. "For example…information that's more critical--that requires higher throughput or service levels--should be on tier 1 storage. Data or information that is not so critical, can be [put] on tier 2 or tier 3 storage."

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