Storage centric

More and more solution providers are finding that more opportunities in virtualisation come from two separate, but decidedly complementary, technologies: storage and security.


Storage-centric solution providers who add server virtualisation to their practices are finding they need new ways to implement and deploy storage infrastructures to virtual server environments. Those environments can, in turn, enhance such areas as data replication and disaster recovery (DR) with server virtualisation.


Other solution providers with strong security backgrounds are finding that security issues related to virtual servers are as similar as they are different in regards to physical servers. In either case, they are benefiting from a whole new set of service opportunities.


Server virtualisation is becoming a huge opportunity for solution providers using the technology to help customers consolidate their server infrastructures, cut power consumption and heat generation, and ease data centre management. The quest to be “green” compliant has taken on a whole new meaning now than in the past especially in the Middle East region.


Storage-centric solution providers who add server virtualisation to their practices are likely to find that they need new ways to implement and deploy storage infrastructures to virtual server environments. Those environments can, in turn, enhance such areas as data replication and disaster recovery with server virtualisation.


As a solution provider in the Middle East with a strong security background, what are you finding? Are security issues related to virtual servers as similar as they are different in regards to physical servers? In either case, are you as a solution provider in the Middle East benefiting from a whole new set of service opportunities that are arising in the server/storage virtualisation space?


Although there are no straight answers, storage and virtual server technologies are starting to feed each other. What is true though is that as more clients add server virtualisation, their storage needs ramp up quick. And although storage complexity drives server virtualisation, it’s vital for solution providers to grasp that as they help their clients to consolidate their storage, to also show them how their physical servers are underutilised.


A recent survey of 1,165 IT managers found that the average company doesn’t utilise 28% of storage capacity but nonetheless plans to increase storage capacity by 34% over the next year.


The survey, performed by International Data Group’s B2B publications business, found that the storage capacity at the companies of respondents will grow by an average of 58% over the next one to three years and by 93% over the next 3 to 5 years.

The survey separated respondents into two groups: Those managing IT in enterprises with more than 1,000 employees; and those at SMBs with fewer than 1,000 employees.


The survey found that overall, companies spend an average of 23% of their annual storage budget on operating costs and maintenance. The enterprise users said their companies spend about 29% of their annual storage budgets on maintenance and operating costs, while SMBs spend 19%.

Overall, the managers indicated that their top challenges are infrastructure complexity (28%), security concerns (27%), inadequate skills or training (25%), difficulty proving ROI (21%) and deciding which storage areas to virtualise (21%).

Disk storage

According to analyst and research firm Gartner the worldwide external controller-based (ECB) disk storage market re-bounded with 18.3% growth in the Q1 of 2010.

Gartner says this reflects a modestly improving global economy, the need to refresh out dated storage infrastructures and the rising deployment of applications that favour file-access applications.


The global firm states that Worldwide ECB revenue totalled US$4.5 billion in the Q1 of 2010, up from $3.8 billion in the Q1 of 2009. Except for the Japan market, the other major geographic regions grew by double-digits year-over-year, with the North American market growing 25.5%.


Due to the decline that the industry suffered last year, some of the growth rates appear higher than usual. In comparing Q1 2010 ECB disk storage revenue to first quarter 2008 revenue of $4.2 billion, ECB disk storage revenue grew 5.2%. File-access ECB disk storage grew from $594.5 million in the Q1 of 2008 to $846.5 million in the Q1 of 2010, a 42.4 percent increase, while block access ECB disk storage was flat at $3.6 billion in first quarter 2010 and first quarter 2008.


"The more cost-effective ECB disk storage systems that conform to the modular architecture continue to gain share, with the more expensive monolithic/frame-based ECB storage systems declining to 27.7% of the total ECB disk storage market in the first quarter of 2010," says Roger Cox, research VP at Gartner. "Year over year, raw terabyte shipments grew 65% in the Q1 of 2010, while the price per terabyte decreased 28.3%."



As recently as five years ago, business continuity and DR topics would make IT executives in SMB organisations grumble that neither was affordable. Now companies of all sizes are realising they can have both using virtualisation technology.


The difference between business continuity and disaster recovery: Disaster recovery is about re-establishing IT services in the face of large-scale hardware failure or sabotage, facilities failure and/or regional natural disaster. Disaster-recovery capabilities are measured by the amount of time it takes to re-establish services and the amount of data loss. Business continuity is the ability to continue operations with little or no downtime in some of these scenarios.

Saurabh Arora, manager – Small and Medium Business at Symantec Middle East and North Africa, says in today’s world information is key in any business environment and no organisation irrespective of size or scale can ignore this aspect today. “Our technologies at Symantec today cover the three pillars of information – security, availability and management – and we have tailored these solutions to best suit the enterprise and SMB sector,” he says.


Arora adds that in an uncertain economic climate – nothing is more valued by partners than predictability and profitability in their business. He points out that predictability comes to the business with knowledge and this includes knowledge about solutions, knowledge about the customers’ environment and most importantly knowledge on how to best implement these solutions in the customers’ environment.


“We have started an aggressive “hands-on” enablement programme for partners across the Middle East and North Africa region, which consists of instructor led sessions that help our partners gain deep insight into the various technologies. We are taking the knowledge directly to our partners,” he says.


Arora explains that on the profitability side, with Symantec’s newly revamped SMB Specialisation, partners can be certain of extra margin through the exclusive “Margin Builder Tool”. “SMB specialisation also offers additional tools such as NFR’s, free online certifications, access to technical support, marketing support etc,” he says.


In addition to SMB specialisation, Arora adds that Symantec also has a programme called Simplicity, a portal for the vendor’s partner community to readily access information on Symantec products and solutions.


Guru Prasad, GM, strategic alliances and channel development at regional value add distributor FVC, says with most organisations moving some of their IT infrastructure to be hosted in the cloud, storage virtualisation, scaling-on-demand, DR solutions and data obfuscation and security are some of the requirements that enterprises look for when it comes to storage management.


Prasad says although cloud services have not been rapidly adopted in the Middle East region, telcos in the region and managed services providers (MSPs) are early adopters. He says these two groups of solution providers expect to sell their services to prospective customers. In addition, governments in the region are increasingly looking at cooperating with MSPs within their respective zones to become early adopters of this paradigm.


He points out that key to the adoption of virtualisation and cloud computing are the services that are key to delivering and deploying these technologies. “Clearly there is a great need of specialised services from our partners to enable customers adopt, deploy, mesh and develop new mashups to deliver the promise of the cloud,” he says. “At FVC we encourage our partners to build competencies in mashups as well as integration of hybrid models to benefit from this great need.”


Managed services bundles

Prasad adds that as more and more managed services are being pushed together with cloud computing offerings, it’s vital for solution providers in this segment to develop a clear understand of the solutions they can bundle around their storage management solutions offerings. He single out cloud backup and cloud archival services are foremost among demand and these are the areas where solution providers need to be looking at. Pasad says that it’s a very cost effective and simple way of meeting compliance and security regulations as well as ensuring a cost effective DR model for SMBs and mid-market companies.


Prasad says with partnerships such as Barracuda and Google we are driving demand for storage backup and archival solutions. “Key business drivers for cloud security focuses on email, web security and search,” he says.


He explains that cloud services do open up new opportunities for solution providers to start offering some of the storage management application tools as SaaS specifically in the areas of storage as a service, as well as backup/DR and archival services.




Although there is no denying that opportunities in the storage solution space are for partners that have invested in some level of skills, succeeding in the high-end storage and cloud computing arena requires partners to have more than just having skills set on board. Prasad explains that other than advanced networking skills it is important to obtain skills in SAN’s, NAS, iSCSI and FCOE technologies to be able to design and deliver large storage systems along with respective storage vendor certifications. “As for the cloud it is important to be able to show software development skills in building mashups which include XML, SAML, Python, Java and hypertext languages such as HTML, XHTML, XSLT, etc,” he concludes.



Server virtualisation is becoming a huge opportunity for solution providers using the technology to help customers consolidate their server infrastructures, cut power usage and heat generation, and ease data centre management. Industry experts share insights on how storage centric solution providers can grab hidden opportunities in the storage solutions space.

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