– Christophe Bertrand, senior director of corporate & product marketing at Hitachi Data Systems (

http://www.hds.com), says:

Data center administrators are facing a myriad of challenges when it comes to managing the explosive growth of data coming into and moving across organizations today. Data capacity, applications and virtual servers are all growing at exponential rates and IT departments are struggling to store and manage all of that digital content, while keeping operational expenses in check. Furthermore, the threat of failing to meet data- or content-based service level objectives (SLO) for customers could result in financial and legal penalties for an organization. 

This means IT administrators are bogged down and forced to deal with housekeeping tasks, to reign in all that data, reducing their productivity and taking their focus away from higher level activities that could advance the business, ensure compliance, or deliver new, value added services and applications to employees.

Dissecting the Data Problem

IDC is predicting the biggest challenge for IT administrators will come from the type of data expected to grow the most – unstructured data, which will come into organizations over internet protocols as files or objects. These collections or “stores” of unstructured data will grow into hundreds and thousands of petabytes and billions of objects, requiring larger file systems and scalable block storage systems. However, these systems will not be enough. The growth of unstructured data will require the integration and management of file, block and object data. This convergence will translate into greater storage efficiencies by eliminating three major costs:

·         backup for data protection;

·         extracting, transforming, and loading (ETL) for data analysi;s; and,

·          managing silos of file, block and object data.

Plotting a Solution Among the Myriad of Options

To address this, many in the storage industry are putting a renewed focus on unified storage. While the idea of unified storage is not a new one, the market requirements and customer challenges have intensified since the first wave of unified storage products entered the market. What remains to be seen is how effective the unified storage offerings of today will be at addressing the increasingly more stringent SLA/SLO requirements of enterprise customers.   

In many ways, traditional unified storage is a bit of a “Jack of all trades…master of none”, and typically targeted at the lower tiers of the market. Most unified storage products today tend to be strong in one data type (either block or file) and weak in another. Many mid-market and enterprise users today need less complex and more unified infrastructures. What customers are really looking for is a “no compromise” approach to unified storage with equal block and file performance, scalability and reliability – with a single management framework. This approach to unified storage will help businesses of all sizes effectively address the many challenges related to managing data, including handling its growth, managing costs, simplifying complexity and meeting service level objectives.

The needs of the end user must come first. One of the top concerns of CIOs and IT administrators when discussing unified storage is they want the ability to have a unified view of their data center assets. This starts with the management of those assets. A truly unified approach allows IT to view and manage block, file and objects, all from a single place. This goes beyond unifying the management of assets within a particular product suite or stack of products, but across an entire suite of disparate solutions. By focusing on unified management, customers can manage and deploy their storage in a single solution, access block, file and object views, receive a unified dashboard, and access reporting tools across their infrastructure.

End users typically buy unified storage as a way to overcome the complexity of their infrastructure. However, while most unified platforms can theoretically handle large capacities of data, in reality scale creates tradeoffs: performance degradation, inability to protect the data effectively, inability to handle large files systems. Balanced scalability is critical, not just capacity scalability.

Organizations today want to simplify their acquisition models and gain new levels of flexibility when it comes to their storage solutions. What’s important to keep in mind when thinking about unified storage is whether or not the product is supported by a single management software platform for all data types, and how well the product integrates with the rest of the vendor’s portfolio. Is it part of a shared management framework, or another silo that adds to complexity?

The world has changed and re-examining what and where unified platforms fit is key. At the end of the day, unified storage products should be designed to eliminate silos, not cause more complexity and inefficiencies in the data center.