At the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in downtown Seattle, storage management is a necessity.
The nonprofit institution, which pioneered bone-marrow transplants and is a leader in gene therapy, is working around-the-clock to find a cure for cancer and related diseasesand currently generating more than 5 terabytes of data annually in research alone. That doesn't include e-mail or Web servers, which have their own dedicated systems.
"We have about a 100 percent storage growth rate year over year," says Tim Hunt, the center's Research Computing Support Manager, who oversees the storage infrastructure.
Hunt, and the Research Computing Support group, are tasked with making sure all that datamore than 12 million files and countingis not only stored properly, but can be retrieved at a moment's notice. "It's an interesting challenge," he says.
Hunt is not alone.
No one in the IT business can deny that storage is a burgeoning issue literally. According to Horison Information Strategies, a consulting firm that researches the storage market, the amount of corporate data is increasing at a rate of 50 percent to 70 percent every year.
The average size of corporate storage per employee has risen from less than 100 megabytes in 1993 to more than 3 gigabytes in 2003, according to META Group Inc. Furthermore, a 5,000-user organization has at least 15 terabytes of data to managea number that will jump to 80 terabytes by 2008.
Unfortunately, though the cost of memory and hardware has plummeteda megabyte that cost $50 ten years ago sells for pennies todaymore data still means more servers and memory requirements, and that creates greater complexities in the storage infrastructure.
Compounding that problem, companies generally are not hiring more storage staffers, which means your IT department needs to get efficient, fast.
Over the past year, the trend has been to move storage from direct- and network-attached storage to storage area networks, centralizing data and connecting different kinds of hardware.
Creating storage networks allows disparate business units to share vital data, which is especially important for companies that have grown quickly through acquisitions and mergers.
As a result, managing the storage infrastructure has become a major effort.
"Right now, you typically have to launch a different element manager for every type of vendor in your network," says Stephanie Balaouras, a senior analyst at Yankee Group. "That's not only a time constraint, it also means that you need expertise for each vendor's equipment and software."
The next step in storage is managing the storage infrastructure enterprisewide from one console, creating a storage management cockpit. By centralizing storage resources and getting a better handle on the topography of the storage infrastructure across the enterprise, CIOs are finding greater efficiencies and cutting costs.
"The challenge is making hardware a true commodity such that you can take [software from] EMC, or Veritas, or Microsoft, or whomever and manage them all with one system," says Rob Schafer, a program director at META Group.
The benefits of a centralized storage management system are numerous. First, the system can greatly reduce backup and recovery timesone of the most time-consuming tasks in the data centerin some cases from days to hours.
Deeper insight into your storage systems also means increased efficiencies from optimizing storage capacity, and that translates into savings. Couple that with some information lifecycle management (ILM) policies (a must) and add storage resource management (SRM) software, and you'll get even greater savings from being able to place the most valuable data on the most valuable storage device and offloading older data to less expensive options, such as tape drives.
All of this can help your company improve business intelligence by making key data more accessible, and in turn, sharing it across business units in a timely manner.
In addition, centralized storage management helps you comply with federal regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
But, as always, it is not easy. Though new standards have been put in place to make future products work together more seamlessly, integration is still a problem today. And the biggest headache is developing data retention policies and procedures around information lifecycle management.