Evaluating Scalable Storage Solutions: Top Considerations

Updated: October 06, 2009


Whatever your industry, if you're doing business, your information storage requirements are growing and changing almost daily. How can you ensure that your business-critical information and content are as available, accessible and secure as the other key elements of your IT infrastructure?


Almost every size and type of business is increasingly dependent on IT simply to do business, let alone to thrive competitively. And the majority of your IT investments are made, in fact, for one overriding purpose: to deliver to every business user the information they need, when and how they need it, to do their jobs. Achieving this goal is essential to maximizing IT ROI and minimizing TCO.

Your storage solution investments and deployments are, in turn, critical to your success in these efforts. But storage solutions themselves continue to evolve, from DAS (directly attached storage) dedicated to specific servers or applications to NAS (network attached storage); SANs (storage-area networks); storage server clusters; and even cloud-based, on-demand storage. In addition, you must be careful to avoid costly over-provisioning or hobbling under-provisioning of storage resources to your colleagues, customers, partners and prospects.

What you need is a storage ecosystem that is seamlessly, intelligently scalable (upward and downward) in rapid response to changing business needs and consistently manageable via business-centric processes and performance metrics. To start down the path toward this goal, you need some specific criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of your chosen and candidate storage, in business-centric terms. Based on research and conversations with numerous users, resellers, integrators and vendors, below are some of the most important considerations for your storage evaluations.

Information availability, quality, and security: These represent the "Holy Grail" of effective business storage and information management. If you don't have metrics or KPIs (key performance indicators ) in place for these or similar characteristics, work with your favorite vendors and advisors to develop them. Of growing interest to many businesses is the measurement and optimization of "time to information," or the time it takes to identify, locate and transform raw data and then deliver it to users in a form they can actually use.

Consolidation and virtualization: These, in turn, are the key characteristics of an effective, scalable storage management ecosystem. As pointed out in The Focus Research Virtualization Market Guide, virtualization of computing servers increases their utilization and can significantly reduce operating costs, especially when abetted by modern hardware. This is at least as true for storage servers as it is for application and processing servers, but is only part of a complete solution.

Your organization also needs the ability to aggregate disparate storage resources, to manage their allocation based on business policies and processes and to ensure information is available as and where needed. In essence, you need the ability to buy and deploy storage as if it were a giant storage pool you can use your business' processes and goals to divide up and deliver to users and applications as needed, while maintaining effective control and security over all of your organization's stored information.

Integration and Manageability: To succeed, you need solutions that combine storage server virtualization, consolidation and clustering with software that supports all needed data formats and protocols. These solutions must also support management by business rules and processes and must scale rapidly and economically upwards and downwards to match capacities to needs.

In addition, such solutions must offer sufficient performance and manageability to enhance and not constrain competitive agility. The Focus Research Storage Basics Market Primer explicitly warns users to watch out for interoperability issues among hardware, software and storage media and to carefully manage network storage. That document also advises that networked storage is only one component of an effective information management strategy.


Scalability that can be managed and changed in timely response to changing business needs may be the single most desirable characteristic of your organization's storage ecosystem. Such scalability is only possible if that storage ecosystem supports consolidation, virtualization, integration and manageability that all focus on delivering timely, accurate information securely to all users. Keeping these goals in mind while evaluating, acquiring and deploying storage solutions is critical to your success in ensuring that your storage and IT investments are as closely aligned as possible with your organization's specific needs and goals.

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