Would you serve the same food to guests at your daughter’s wedding as you would at your four-year-old son’s birthday party? Unless you’re rich or a terrible money manager, your answer is probably no. So why are many of today’s budget-strapped storage managers forced to allocate the same level of high performance storage, SAN bandwidth, and services to minor tasks that they use for mission-critical applications?
One reason is that the SAN devices, management, and virtualization tools companies use to pool and share among applications have no awareness of those applications’ differing needs. The result is often wasteful overkill and overspending.
“In order to make sure the elements are there to meet the capacity, performance, availability, and recoverability requirements of their most important data and applications, companies often have to overimplement,” says Mike Koclanes, co-founder and CTO of storage management vendor CreekPath. “The result is that they hit
their required service level, but the costs are much too high.”
Hubert Yoshida, CTO of Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), agrees, placing some of the blame on his fellow storage vendors. “Until now, storage vendors have worked from the bottom up because we own the storage. But ultimately, the storage is there to serve an application. The time has now come to take a look from the application down.”
Approaching storage from the application’s point of view is exactly what ADIC, AppIQ, CreekPath, HDS, IBM, Maranti Networks, OuterBay, Veritas, and other storage management and hardware vendors have started doing. Maranti Networks calls this new approach “application-aware storage,” while HDS calls it “application-optimized storage” and AppIQ calls it “application-driven storage.” But each vendor has the same basic goal: to tailor storage and storage services to individual applications based on their particular performance, availability, recoverability, compliance requirements, and value to the organization.
One benefit of this approach is the cost reduction it imparts to storage managers who may then take better advantage of less-expensive SCSI and Serial ATA storage and services for low-priority applications. Meanwhile, they maintain the highest levels of performance, capacity, and reliability for e-commerce and other mission-critical apps all using the same storage pool.
Application-aware storage shares something in common with an earlier concept, known as HSM (Hierarchical Storage Management). But while HSM migrates data among storage tiers, HSM systems’ actions are mostly based on the age of the data and frequency of access, and take little account of compliance requirements or the data’s actual value to the organization.
By approaching storage intelligently, application awareness can provide a foundation for ILM (information lifecycle management), a strategy that’s widely trumpeted as the future of storage. ILM aims to define a set of policies and automated processes for provisioning, mirroring, replication, snapshotting, data migration, and retention based on the value of different types of information to the organization. ILM goes beyond the application, allowing policies based on awareness of data itself and even the information that data represents.
Visibility and Beyond