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The Rise of Software Based Data Management

The image of an IT department containing rack after rack of hardware for data storage could one day be a hazy memory. There is more and more of a tendency for companies and organisations to virtualise their server and storage operation and become what’s labelled as a ‘software-defined data center’,- it’s a market that is forecast to hit $77 billion by the year 2020.
The advantages of virtualisation
Cost, flexibility and ease of use are three of the key benefits of virtualisation. It’s a way of making less hardware yield more: in the case of virtual storage such as a SAN system, it means more data can be stored and accessed far more easily across many locations.
Cost savings - capital expenditure and operational costs can be reduced by around 40% in some cases
Simplicity - the virtual SAN software can be run and managed from a central location yet serve many more
Availability - high availability, live updates and migration even in many challenging environments
Virtualised storage
The idea of using VM’s (virtual machines) so computers can run software that isn’t actually loaded onto that specific machine is not new, but virtualised storage is a newer technology and one being embraced by more users.
Put simply, the SAN (standard area network) is a software shared storage solution. In the case of virtual storage specialists StorMagic, their SAN solution - SvSAN - runs on just two servers yet enables storage to be shared across multiple locations while being centrally managed from just one.
Who will gain?
Some smaller specialist vendors who are at the cutting edge of the technology and quickly bring new solutions to the market are gaining - particularly as they can react and provide bespoke solutions to their clients swiftly. Contrast this with a leading networking behemoth who generally may take some five years to develop a new product.
Clients can certainly gain: if they’re prepared to change their culture in moving away from hardware to software-based solutions, then a raft of benefits await. Take cost: it’s not just the reduced hardware investment but other savings such as the implications of downtime, power, maintenance and likely recruitment cost reductions as not so many people - including experts - are required on the payroll.
Are there any barriers?
Inertia: the desire to stick with the familiar and the reluctance to switch technologies is prevalent in some cases. Many IT professionals are used to working with physical equipment: if they need more storage, then they’re used to buying and setting up more hardware. The idea that it’s possible to simply spend some time at a console to achieve the same objective seems alien to some.
Learning curve: even for the seasoned IT professional, there will be some learning involved and the thought of re-training an entire IT department can be daunting for some. It’s worth remembering that modern SAN storage systems and other virtualisation IT solutions are mostly designed for ease of use and set up for the client.
It’s also possible to ‘take a test drive’ with companies offering trials of SAN virtual storage and others.
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