› How to Leverage New Storage Strategies to Support Business Growth

› How to Leverage New Storage Strategies
to Support Business Growth
When it comes to the increasingly complex task of managing data storage,
many small and midsize organizations face even greater challenges than large, global enterprises.
Small and midsize companies have ever-increasing volumes of information to manage and
secure, and they are confronting a number of difficulties when it comes to storage. Among
the biggest hurdles:
›› Scaling storage as the business grows rapidly
›› Meeting the rising expense of data storage capacity
›› Dealing with the complexity of management and architecture
›› Devoting precious staff time managing storage and data backup
Whereas larger organizations have significant IT budgets and staff to handle storage-related challenges, small and midsize companies lack the IT resources to dedicate to storage management.
Fortunately, there are new approaches to data storage on the market that can help such companies
address their data storage needs without requiring dedicated storage management resources, while
at the same time driving down their costs.
This ebook covers some of the key challenges organizations are encountering with storage management, data protection and cost containment. It also shows how IT organizations can effectively
address these difficulties while getting the most out of their valuable information assets.
Data Storage Struggles
Storage volumes are on the rise, and legacy network storage solutions will fail to deliver what
companies need due to shortfalls in scalability and the inability of scale-up architectures to meet
capacity, availability and performance requirements. This presents significant and increasingly
complex storage needs for organizations—and higher spending on storage technology.
Here are some recent research findings that highlight these challenges, from the standpoint of storage technology investments:
›› According to Computerworld’s Forecast Study 2013, about
one-quarter of the 334 IT and business professionals
surveyed say their organizations expect to significantly
increase spending on storage hardware over the next 12
months. In fact, storage hardware is the second-highestranking IT component in terms of expected spending
increases, behind servers.
›› Forty-two percent of the respondents in the Computerworld
study report that their organizations expect to purchase
storage hardware over the next 12 months.
›› An InfoWorld survey of 416 IT decision makers conducted in
February and March 2013 shows that companies over the
next 12 months were expecting to invest in or increase their
investments in backup and recovery (46%), network-attached
storage (35%), business continuity/disaster recovery software
(32%), storage servers (32%), solid state drives (30%), cloudbased storage services (28%) and storage arrays (27%).
Clearly, spending on storage systems is on the rise for organizations, at a time when many companies are still looking to keep
a tight rein on technology investments. Contributing to the
storage spending spree are regulations that require companies
to securely store and be able to retrieve information for longer
periods of time. The cost implications of failing to do this are
significant—and could even put a company out of business.
In addition to spending issues, small and midsize organizations
that are looking to implement sophisticated storage solutions
with enterprise-class features face complicated installation challenges. And in most cases they are not equipped to handle these
difficulties due to IT resource constraints and a lack of appropriate in-house expertise.
The complex installation, planning and ongoing management
and maintenance of storage systems also present challenges
for small and midsize companies, because they lack the necessary resources, skills and time. This situation only gets worse as
storage capacities increase, resulting in storage islands, underutilized storage assets and future forklift upgrades. This ultimately
leads to wasted capital expenses.
› VIDEO: TechTalk with Tad Hunt, CTO, Exablox
Companies today need to be able to scale storage—in a way that
is nondisruptive to the business—into the hundreds of terabytes.
The cost implications only increase when storage products reach
the end of their lifecycle and companies are forced to implement
major overhauls, resulting in another round of spending.
Storage Success Story
Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC) provides an excellent example of how an organization can overcome storage
challenges. BPOC helps organizations in San Diego, including
museums and other art, science and cultural organizations, to
make cost-effective, sustainable technology decisions.
BPOC has improved the technology capabilities of its clients,
including relaunching more than 25 websites; digitizing more
than 180,000 museum objects; providing affordable desktop/
server support for 13 organizations; and building technical
infrastructure to support future collaboration, including a highspeed fiber network.
The issues BPOC’s IT organization faces are similar to those of
many midsize organizations: asset fragmentation coupled with
burgeoning data growth and accompanying infrastructure costs.
To meet the challenges with limited resources, BPOC needed to
standardize in order to keep management overhead in line.
Many legacy storage solutions do not provide the scalability that
growing companies need, and this presents another storage challenge for smaller businesses. When the only option to scale is to
invest heavily in additional storage islands, the cost is too high for
many companies.
As part of its mission, BPOC provides an online repository and
Web presence for participating institutions. This includes digitizing objects such as photos, sculptures and maps. The digital
asset management system (DAMS) repository has to support
both smaller 100MB TIF files and 100GB movie formats.
In addition, legacy scale-up doesn’t cut it today, with data volume
always growing faster than anticipated. Both single-node storage
and scale-up only result in isolated islands of storage, and it’s
difficult for companies to know what information is on which
island, resulting in management complexity and uncertainty.
BPOC was looking for a standardized storage solution to support
three use cases: file storage for users, about 10TB; a target for
backups, about 80TB; and DAMS repository, about 400TB.
If storage solutions do not scale in terms of capacity, performance
and availability, that hinders the ability to leverage information.
The organization needed more storage without the management overhead of local or direct-attached storage (DAS), and
wanted a shared storage solution that met its budget and
management objectives.
BPOC opted for a scale-out storage solution with cloud-based
management from Exablox, called OneBlox, which is both easy
to use and helps drive down the cost of storage. In running the
Exablox OneBlox system in the proof of concept (POC), BPOC
estimated that leveraging the Exablox system would be more
cost-effective than deploying a competing shared storage solution. And it estimates that by leveraging the Exablox system, it
has saved about 10 hours per week in management time.
› IDC predicts the worldwide fileand object-based storage (FOBS)
market will grow from revenues
exceeding $23 billion in 2013 to
$38 billion in 2017.
A New and Effective
Approach to Storage
Exablox provides solutions designed to help small and midsize
organizations address their data storage needs, including dealing
with runaway storage costs and information management nightmares. While the company’s solution looks like traditional NAS, it
differs in key ways, such as featuring a scale-out, object-based file
system, and a cloud-based management service.
The company launched in 2010 with several key principles.
One was to develop an enterprise-class solution that fits the
needs of small and midsize companies that are resource
constrained. Another was to provide storage solutions that would
make it easy for a company to scale and grow storage as the
business expanded.
The main offering from the company is OneBlox, a cloud-managed,
scale-out storage solution that combines a hardware appliance
that’s installed at a company’s premises and an integrated, enterprise-grade cloud-based management service called OneSystem.
OneBlox seamlessly integrates continuous data protection, inline
deduplication and disaster recovery.
Instead of trying to retrofit into a legacy scale-up RAID architecture, OneBlox employs a scale-out architecture and introduces the
concept of a ring, a number of OneBlox appliances or nodes that
present a single file system. A ring might consist of one or more
OneBlox appliances, scaling from a few terabytes to nearly 200
terabytes. The OneBlox architecture allows a company to begin
with a single node and add additional OneBlox units that join the
ring automatically and nondisruptively.
OneBlox provides additional flexibility for organizations to bring
their own drives (paying retail pricing—not a 2x to 5x markup) and
mix-and-match drive types and capacity within the same OneBlox
and within a ring. They can use whatever capacity they need from
the beginning, then add any drive at any time; OneBlox automatically configures and pools the storage within the same global
file system in less than five minutes. There are no configuration
settings to complete or command line entries, so companies don’t
need to rely on storage experts to install or maintain the system.
OneBlox can be initially installed and available for use in less
than five minutes. The solution’s always-on inline deduplication,
continuous data protection and encryption ensure that all of the
data stored is fully protected.
The accompanying solution, OneSystem, is a multitenant,
cloud-based management service that eliminates the need for
dedicated servers on the customer premises to manage storage.
With this service, companies no longer need to use patches to
keep management software up to date because OneSystem
proactively monitors and manages OneBlox. Companies just
need to login from any Web browser and easily configure access
permissions to storage.
According to research firm International Data Corp., demand for
the type of storage technology that Exablox offers will continue
to increase. In an August 2013 report, IDC predicts the worldwide file- and object-based storage (FOBS) market will grow from
revenues exceeding $23 billion in 2013 to $38 billion in 2017.
Scale-up solutions such as unitary file servers and scale-up appliances and gateways will have hard times throughout the forecast
period, IDC says, while scale-out file- and object-based solutions
will show significant growth, according to IDC’s Ashish Nadkarni,
research director, storage systems.
Gaining an Advantage
Organizations have a huge amount of data at their disposal today,
and they can use this information to gain a distinct competitive
Ultimately, companies stand to gain from the collection of useful
information about customers, markets and trends. But storing
the growing volumes of information can be a big burden, particularly for companies with limited IT budget, staff and storagerelated skills. The specter of costly compliance fines also looms if
that information is mishandled.
By tapping into the technology expertise and unique approach
to storage management offered by companies such as Exablox,
small and midsize businesses can deliver more efficient storage
and enjoy the same enterprise-class storage features that much
larger companies have implemented.
Exablox has developed a solution that uses the latest technology,
has taken storage management to nearly zero, and has brought
enterprise-class features to organizations of all sizes, where
previously it has been overly complex and cost prohibitive.
Storage administrators demand simplicity
IT staffers at all levels are now tasked with managing data storage.
They demand simplicity (but want power, too).
By Kevin Fogarty
March 25, 2013
The torrent of data that threatens to overwhelm many
corporate IT departments has driven demand for new
types of storage technology. Storage managers aren’t
asking for ever-larger, ever-more-complex boxes like
those that play leading roles in traditional marketing
campaigns and vendor bragfests.
Storage managers need faster, higher-capacity
hardware to keep up with volumes of data that nearly
double every two years.
What they need even more, however, is simplicity.
“With budgets growing slowly and head counts actually
going down a bit, the challenge eventually becomes,
How do you manage 30% more data without 30% more
budget or 30% more head count?” says Dick Csaplar, a
virtualization and storage analyst at Aberdeen Group.
Aberdeen’s research indicates that most companies
have between eight and 18 storage specialists on staff,
most with job descriptions that have been expanding
for years.
“It’s not enough to know which box in the warehouse
has the tape with the data you need,” says Csaplar.
“You have to be able to run e-discovery searches and
produce the data within strict time limits. That’s a big
change even with the same amount of data.”
Simply storing, tracking and securing vast amounts
of data is a challenge for any IT department, but the
oceans of data are to blame only for the demand for
storage space, not for IT’s limited ability to deal with it,
according to IDC storage analyst Ashish Nadkarni.
IT’s real difficulty — the lack of storage specialists and,
ultimately, the need forsimpler solutions to complex
storage problems — started with one of the biggest
wins corporate IT has ever had: server virtualization,
Nadkarni says.
Virtualized systems are more efficient than older
equipment, and they changed IT in fundamental ways.
Rather than having one group of specialists responsible
for all the storage, another responsible for applications
and a third for servers, Nadkarni says, responsibility for
all three fell, usually, to a single administrator.
That change was so fundamental that it rippled
throughout IT, forcing organizational changes designed
to match what the company was trying to accomplish
with virtual servers, virtual apps, mobile devices, cloud
platforms and all the other follow-on technologies,
Csaplar says.
“Ultimately, everything else has to get simpler because
virtual-server admins don’t havetime to learn a lot of
overly complex interfaces,” Kerns says.
Read the full article
The Taneja Group:
What would happen if you started with a blank sheet
of paper and designed, from the ground up, a new
storage solution that provided those key storage
capabilities in a single, self contained array, everything
baked-in and automated for the non-storage expert
to setup and operate? You’d certainly avoid inheriting
the legacy issues mentioned above, and could create
storage that would be a cost- effective joy to own and
operate, rather than a costly burden.
Exablox has taken just that approach with their
new OneBlox storage appliance. OneBlox has been
designed to provide advanced storage capabilities
that data driven businesses need, aiming for a low
management burden and affordable price point that
both smaller IT organizations and departmental storage
buyers would appreciate.
OneBlox is plug and play scale-out storage. Physically,
each OneBlox storage node has eight 3.5” drive bays
and 4-1GbE connections. One of the first remarkable
things about OneBlox is that you “bring your own disks”
to the array. You can plug in any disks of any size that
you have or source (SATA, SAS, SSD) your own drives.
Over time, drives can be removed, recycled, reused,
and replaced as needed. This process is done dynamically, and the file system will automatically regenerate the desired levels of data protection (through
object-based replication). This means you can reuse
drives from other arrays, buy disks from your vendor
of choice, and swap out disks as your capacity and
budget allows.
Powering OneBlox is a new distributed object-based
file system. A unique aspect to Exablox’s file system
is the ubiquitous access it provides an organization by
presenting a CIFS/SMB file share to users and applications. This isn’t common as most object-based systems
require custom application API or RESTful interfaces.
Under the covers OneBlox breaks every file it sees into
objects. By managing at the object level, OneBlox can
provide data replication across associated disks and
nodes and make a global “namespace” out of all the
storage presented.
Object level replication enables Exablox to avoid legacy
RAID protection schemes while protecting data from
Exablox OneBlox Appliance
disk or node failures. Data replication is in real time
and, by default, in triplicate. If there is more than one
node in the local “ring”, it will ensure that at least one
of the replicates is on a different node. This replication scheme enables information is still available after
two drive or node failures. Moreover, failed disks (or
whole nodes) can simply be removed and replaced —
OneBlox will dynamically re-replicate all the objects
on the node as needed to maintain the appropriate
protection level. There are no vulnerable or offline
rebuild windows as with legacy RAID approaches and
no worrying about LUNs or volume sizes.
Multiple storage nodes can be aggregated into a single
ring (of up to 6 nodes) by simply powering them up
on the same LAN. They will automatically discover
other nodes and join the ring with zero configuration.
Once nodes are clustered, not only does OneBlox
automatically redistribute any data objects across the
ring (if necessary to protect against two drive or node
failures), it presents all the aggregated storage in the
same global namespace. When you physically add
either a disk or a new node, the current network share
simply expands to include the new capacity. There is
no need to manually manage storage pools, mess with
RAID sets, manage volumes and file systems (although
you can carve out additional shares if you want to), or
migrate data.
Automatic replication is great, but OneBlox does much
more right “out of the box”. It also applies in- line data
de-duplication to optimize capacity. No questions
to answer, radio buttons to click, no management.
It just does it — and not just on a single node, but
de-dupes across the entire ring (global namespace).
Although triplicate replication requires extra disk space
compared to RAID, de- duplication tremendously
reduces the total storage space required (your mileage
will vary depending on data content).
In addition to the ring level replication, OneBlox
provides advanced continuous data protection in the
form of automatic (space-optimized) snapshots that
occur for every file write. This means that at any point
you can do an immediate online recovery of previous
versions of a file without having to try restoring from
backups. Users can even find and recover files easily
themselves by navigating through a dedicated “Snapshots” folder through Mac Finder or Windows Explorer.
OneBlox not only protects against file deletion/
corruption, but also drive removal. Every object that
is written to OneBlox is encrypted (in-line) with AES 256
before it’s written to the physical disk. Failed or obsolete drives can be simply removed and thrown out. If
disks are lost or stolen they are unreadable. Following
the OneBlox core management design principle,
encryption happens automatically — there isn’t any
special configuration. It’s built-in and always protecting
your information.
In addition, Exablox is delivering cross-site replication
to protect against an entire ring failure or site failure.
With this capability, it will be possible to designate
rings to replicate to each other providing an easy
way to support disaster recovery plans. Furthermore,
each of the rings continues to share the same global
namespace giving users and applications in both locations access to information in its entirety. And since the
data is already de-duplicated and encrypted with only
incremental snapshot- to-snapshot changes needing
remote replication, WAN usage will automatically be
optimized and your information secure. Remote replication across rings could also be used to propagate
data across sites and support ROBO locations.
management access. OneBlox owners simply log into
OneSystem (running in the cloud) and pair their unique
OneBlox with it much like you would a Bluetooth
connection setup. From there, the rest is management
simplified: visual, drag-and-drop, directly actionable.
Configuring new shares, users, groups, integrating
with Active Directory, and disaster recovery — all done
through an intuitive browser interface. OneSystem
proactively tracks and monitors the usage, capacity
and health, and issues alerts if necessary. We expect
that Exablox support will be offering proactive management of discovered issues on a 7x24 basis—another
bonus for small IT organizations.
To summarize the innovative design briefly, all data in
OneBlox is automatically replicated, de- duplicated,
encrypted, and continuously protected by snapshots.
Management is cloud-based and hosted by the
experts. Scale-out growth is basically plug and play.
That’s a lot of capability for an appliance that enables
you to use whatever drives you want.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for most storage buyers
is cost. OneBlox looks to save organizations money in
several areas, both CAPEX and OPEX, that are worth
briefly reviewing:
OneBlox delivers the equivalent of an “all inclusive”
licensing of multiple enterprise class storage capabilities. In addition, these capabilities are baked-in
to the point where they don’t require expert storage
administration. Ease of use translates into a low
total cost of ownership.
OneBlox systematically scales out and grows
smoothly, with no large thresholds in storage
architecture, services or licenses to overcome. The
storage owner is free to add almost any available
capacity increments desired, as needed.
The bring-your- own- disk approach enables
sourcing whatever drives desired from any trusted
vendor, at any price on the free market.
Along with the OneBlox storage, Exablox has also
been innovating with its cloud-based storage management service, OneSystem. Exablox’s OneSystem cloud
solution means you never have to install local storage
tools, open firewall ports, or configure VPNs for remote
Cloud management means no on-premise
support is required for hosting or maintaining
storage management solutions. It will always be
current, and enables remote management and
monitoring by experts.