Opinion

IT storage revolution in the era of cloud and Big Data

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George DeBono, General Manager, MEA and Turkey, Red Hat

As forward-looking enterprises consider the future of their IT architectures, the key question emerging is not public versus private cloud, but rather how the enterprise will ensure consistency across an environment that includes both.

Yesterday’s highly centralised approaches to storage pose significant challenges to organisations operating hybrid environments. The hybrid cloud demands a converged data platform, able to unify disparate clouds and allow data to be deployed to and accessed from anywhere. It is abundantly clear that a revolution in data storage is now both imminent and completely necessary.

Yet organisations in the Middle East remain clueless when it comes to addressing new storage needs. In its report on the MEA IT infrastructure market, research firm Gartner said, “The storage hardware market is still underpenetrated overall, with many organisations not having the insight or education required to assess the correct storage infrastructure for their application and service requirements.” Assessing the right storage infrastructure requires that CIOs first understand the factors driving data growth and the unique challenges they raise.

The Need for a Storage Revolution

Cloud computing and big data, two of the most significant trends in modern IT, each pose significant challenges to traditional storage. Cloud calls for a storage platform that can be easily deployed in both public and private environments, provides built-in reliability and robustness in any cloud, and can easily scale up or down on demand. Big data demands a storage platform with tremendous capacity-to the petabyte level and beyond in some cases, is affordable at scale, and can deliver the performance required to support high-throughput applications. Individually, cloud and big data each serve to obsolete traditional, scale-up approaches to storage. Together they sound its death knell.

Even without the necessity imposed by cloud and big data, enterprises are ripe for an alternative to the siloed approach to storage offered by traditional NAS and SAN. In order to maintain agility and contain operating costs as data volumes skyrocket and data types proliferate, the enterprise must radically simplify its management of information. It needs a unified platform that allows it to support a wide variety of storage requirements using standard technologies and existing skillsets.

With data creation and collection increasingly decentralised, enterprises need a storage platform able to break down and bridge the disparate storage silos created by legacy storage technologies. To support modern, data-driven social, mobile and web applications, the enterprise demands a storage platform able to provide service-oriented access to stored data as objects easily consumed by highly distributed applications. Yet for more traditional applications, and for simplified maintenance across all applications, support for traditional file protocols is required. Likewise, in the face of an increasingly fragmented deployment environment, enterprises need a storage platform able to span these infrastructure options – including physical, virtual and cloud – to create a single, unified environment for persistent data.

From a business perspective, what the CIO ultimately needs is a storage platform that allows the enterprise to fully tap into the power of its data, enabling enterprise transformation, rapid innovation and stronger business growth through the application of emerging technologies such as mobile, social and big data.

The Software-Defined Storage Solution

Today’s enterprise is rapidly adopting a wide variety of “software-defined” technologies better able to meet the changing needs of modern business than their traditional IT counterparts. In no area of the data centre is this approach more needed than in storage. The cost of traditional storage on a per-terabyte basis is simply too high to support large data volumes. To address new challenges, enterprises must turn towards cloud-inspired scale-out storage systems based on industry-standard commodity servers running on trusted open-source software.

Software-defined storage virtualises the enterprise data store, allowing it to remain independent of application- and infrastructure-layer factors such as the choice of access protocols and infrastructure deployment options. By pooling cloud, virtual and on-premise infrastructure under a single unified storage platform, software-defined storage leverages an enterprise’s existing resources and skillsets to establish the foundation for agile, flexible, cloud-compatible storage. In doing so, this software-centric approach to storage will help organisations solve a wide variety of modern data management challenges, including managing the explosion of unstructured data and harnessing this data for competitive advantage.

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