The information explosion shows no signs of abating and IT departments are grappling with the ever-increasing cost and time it takes to offer on- or off-premise storage to feed organisations’ hunger for data.
In a fast-paced environment, everyone wants access to data faster, in real-time and across the enterprise or business groups. Customers, partners, suppliers and geographically dispersed staff need information and apps around the clock.
Technology leaders from a variety of industries gathered for a roundtable recently in Sydney to share insights about managing the explosive growth in data, meeting a dynamic demand for storage, and cost-effective solutions in a virtual setting. The roundtable was sponsored by Veeam Software and Microsoft.
The Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Broken Bay, has the potential to offer “1 terabyte of [cloud] data to everyone” says Robert Broadley, its ICT infrastructure manager. “We’re building our data storage capacity to manage the information needs of 20,000 end users.”
The Diocese manages 44 schools and Broadley notes demand for data inside of this network continues to grow.
The organisation manages its storage needs using on-premise and hybrid cloud models. “We will migrate more services into the cloud,” says Broadley. “But we must map out our core data storage needs, where this data will reside and the best strategies to access this data.”
However, he admits throwing more cloud storage at the problem may not be the long-term panacea. “Organisations need to appreciate how they want their data stored. There are also issues around data governance, together with security or privacy,” he says.
For financial services organisations, the benefits of hybrid cloud storage are also considerable, says Vik Sharma, head of IT at Balmain Corporation. The company provides commercial mortgage finance (arranging and lending) and investment funds management service, and has $2 billion in assets under management.
Balmain’s corporate data of up to 30TB is stored across a mix of private, hybrid and public cloud services.
“We remain one of the early adopters of hybrid cloud storage models,” claims Sharma. “We’re deploying additional apps into [Microsoft] Azure cloud services.”
Managing data security
Kate Carruthers, IT manager, faculty of engineering at UNSW Australia, sees data governance as the key to managing vast volumes of information. She says the university functions in a highly fragmented data landscape.
Its research archival data store has 3 petabytes of capacity. This store offers researchers and research groups a long-term storage and archival service. Researchers can develop and plan how they structure and store their data.
“We have terabytes, petabytes and yottabytes of data. All roads lead to governance for big data, business intelligence or personal information,” she says.
One challenge is that campus users often buy their own storage capacity and use products like Dropbox, or storage services from Amazon or Google. “What do we do with the active data and how do we ensure we have governance policies in place?” Carruthers asks.
Students may also have an under-developed value system when it comes to social media, she says. “The question is: How you do keep your data safe? And can you place fences around communities?”
Sharma is also concerned about security and the accessibility of data. “Is it safe where it resides? Does it have authorised access? Is it being backed up securely?” he asks.
Victor Mourinho, IT manager for Snap Franchising Organisations, suggests organisations look to trusted third-party cloud providers to manage their data storage needs, but in a highly secure environment. Private cloud services are a strong option for dispersed organisations, he says.
Snap Franchising specialises in print design websites and has 180 centres globally. “Each centre supports gigabytes of data. We’re looking at moving these centres away from their on-premise data storage into the cloud,” Mourinho says.
The challenge in leveraging off-premise storage is changing the mindset of where and how centre data is stored, he says. “Another challenge will be the timing of when a centre’s local ISP contract ends to when that centre can migrate to the private cloud.”
Microsoft’s director of partner and business development, Phil Goldie, says standards and security are core priorities for cloud solutions providers. “Physical security is critical in the cloud. Our focus is ensuring data centre management agreements are airtight,” he says.
In the highly regulated financial sector, Goldie notes that: “We would not want to compromise our relationships with banks or other enterprises. Nothing is ever physically released from data centres.” Existing security models offer a “rigorous and proven method involving the physical destruction of information”, he adds.
New media needs
At The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, storage needs go beyond traditional content and into new types of media and video content, says its CIO, Greg Porter. The college network supports in excess of 20,000 fellows and trainees across Australia and New Zealand.
“Our future storage needs will be increasingly non-textual type resources,” he says. “For example, our use of video is increasing all the time.”
The college is conducting an inventory of its future ICT needs. “Cloud storage is an option. But firstly, we’re more likely to migrate non-critical areas into a private cloud. We need highly secure storage given the private nature of our learning and accreditation programs.”
At Fire & Rescue NSW, the intention is to migrate its data centres to government-managed facilities at Silverwater and Unanderra. The NSW government has mandated the use of its data centres under a whole-of-government ICT strategy. This will see 130 existing decentralised government data centres moving into purpose built facilities by 31 December 2015.
Fire & Rescue NSW is migrating its data centres to government facilities in stages.
During this staged migration, it will heavily leverage storage and virtualisation technology. This new technology allocates resources automatically on demand and as needed.
The group’s chief security officer, Asaf Ahmad, says nearly 90 per cent of the department’s corporate operations are fully virtualised. “We plan to take up more services offered at the GovDC [government data centre] marketplace based on a platform-as-a-service model,” he comments.
Planning for a disaster
The rise of big data, virtualisation and automation are transforming demand for data centres, according to Charles Clarke, technical director, APAC, Veeam Software. This has been made possible by virtualisation, he says.
“Virtualisation offers economies of scale by consolidating workloads. In the data centre, this is magnified by being able to share other elements of infrastructure, such as power and cooling,” he says.
Virtualisation is essentially an on-ramp to the cloud, says Clarke. “The key difference between the two terms lies in billing models and the ability to host multiple tenants on shared infrastructure.”
Planning for backup and disaster recovery is also critical in a cloud storage set-up. “The rule of thumb follows the 3-2-1 principle: Have three copies of data, one of which is in production, on two different media, one of which must be offsite,” Clarke advises.
Keeping storage offsite and in the cloud enables organisations to manage backup in the event of a disaster.
“We’re embracing the cloud and increasingly organisations need reassurance about storage backup features,” Clarke adds. “Having offsite backup is vital for survival when the expectation is that IT services are always on.”
Cost recovery factors
The cloud by definition delivers cost savings for storage and access across the enterprise. The benefits lie in using utility style access models, similar to electricity or water services. As organisations migrate more storage infrastructure to the cloud, cost control will be a key consideration.
Several IT leaders at the roundtable raised the focus on cost-recovery when accessing storage in the cloud. And most agree about avoiding “premium prices” for cloud storage.
Business managers also seek better control over service level agreements (SLAs) and paying for what is being used. Leveraging ‘user-pay’ access model that are similar to utilities remain the service of choice. This flexible model helps manage traffic download and access costs.