Unlock Cost Savings and Performance by Improving Your Storage Strategy

Access requirements, cyber resiliency, performance considerations, and more are key in creating an approach that is built to last

By Joel Conaway, Account Executive, Evolving Solutions

Data is the crown jewel for most organizations. Every part of the business relies on data to be stored and delivered without glitches. How is it possible to achieve seamless interaction between the storage system, workloads, and users? By planning, deploying, and executing a well-crafted storage architecture.

Where to Start When Creating a Storage Strategy

Defining requirements is the first step in any storage architecture planning. That may be easy for some organizations and harder for others. Choosing a manufacturer is not a strategy. Further, providing ad hoc storage to end users as needed can create complications for the business, because IT may have a difficult time justifying the capital outlay to a questioning CFO. The expenditure may look outsized compared to cheaper third-party hosting providers, outsourcing, or the cloud.

The best start to defining the right technology for a given workload is by answering the following questions:

  • How will storage be accessed?
  • How frequently will the data be written to storage?
  • How frequently will the stored data be read?
  • What security protections does the storage require?
  • How quickly does the organization need to access offsite storage?
  • Does a copy need to be located in another region?
  • How fast does the organization need to access offsite storage? Seconds, minutes, or days?
  • What is the organization’s Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) for various outage/disaster scenarios?
  • RTO = How quickly do you need to recover from a given scenario?
  • RPO = How much data can the business afford to lose?
  • How do you protect your data from cyber attacks or malicious/accidental data destruction?
Organizations need to look at the whole compute platform, access requirements, as well as high availability (HA), and disaster recovery (DR) when making a decision about storage.

Organizations must also examine the whole compute platform and access requirements, combined with high availability (HA), disaster recovery (DR), and cyber resiliency when deciding about storage. For example, to build cyber resiliency into its storage architecture design, an organization could maintain copies of data that are offline and are air gapped, so there are recovery points in the event of a breach. We discuss cyber resiliency with all of our customers because they’ve either had a scare themselves or they know somebody who has.

The rise of ransomware incidents has increased the CEO’s awareness of storage. The CEO wants to know that the organization’s data is protected if it’s attacked.

Key Storage Considerations

The Cloud’s Role in Storage

Organizations must consider the best location for their storage based on workload and access speed. In some cases, that may be on-premise, or in a private or public cloud.

IBM FlashSystem supports running the same software in a customer’s data center, in Amazon Web Services, and in Microsoft Azure with the ability to copy data between all three locations. Any client thinking about public cloud needs to perform a complete storage design including assessments of access and speed. The choice depends on what the organization is trying to accomplish and why storage needs to be in one place or another.

For organizations using containers and open standards, IBM Storage for Red Hat OpenShift provides infrastructure and storage orchestration for on-premise hybrid cloud employing container storage interface specifications.

Analytics, Performance, and Storage

Organizations must also understand the workloads being run and how they will access storage to determine the best storage strategy.

With the industry shift to all flash storage, array performance is never a bottleneck for application workload when the system is properly architected. With such dramatic performance gains, organizations can do analytics, advanced AI calculations, modeling with GPUs, and other performance intensive workloads with ease. For example, Evolving Solutions consulted on a project to refresh a client’s environment with an analytics workload running across 22 storage arrays. With the latest technology, we can consolidate to half as many storage arrays while provide greater performance for the analytics workload. Collectively, these new arrays compute at an incredibly fast rate, enabling the client to compute at a rate never seen before, and at a much lower cost. More work at less cost is a boon for any organization.

IBM’s custom built and unique FlashCore Modules provide ultra-high performance while at the same time providing built in hardware compression. This unique technology has made IBM the industry leader in all flash density and performance per rack unit. One Evolving Solution client, for example, went from 14 full racks of storage in their data center down to 20U, or about one-half, of a rack spread across two data centers. For many customers, being able to free up that much power, cooling, and floorspace would be equivalent to getting a new data center for free.

Storage Flexibility and Security

As storage technology improves, clients have more flexibility than ever. This includes when to bring in new storage technology to not miss out on innovation.

At Evolving Solutions, we advise clients to incorporate new storage technology in a few different ways:

  • Refresh portions of their environment to merge in new technology
  • Take advantage of subscription-based pricing models for on-premise capacity, giving them a way to refresh on a faster cycle without up-front capital investments

Either way, continuously evaluating environment costs and looking for expansion opportunities is important.

Flexibility also plays a role in security innovations. For example, IBM has created security offerings to help protect data, by placing IBM Safeguarded Copy on several platforms. This technology takes hundreds of point-in-time copies to give you granular recovery points. IBM also provides a blueprint, called Cyber Vault, that defines exactly how a customer should configure and set up a dedicated forensic recovery environment.

With the Cyber Vault architecture, organizations can build an environment that can analyze Safeguarded Copy. In the event of a cyber attack, malicious destruction, or even accidental destruction of data, clients can go use the Cyber Vault environment to forensically analyze Safeguarded Copy and determine an optimal restore point.

Organizations can also leverage tools in IBM’s security suite like Guardium and QRadar to scan those copies, determine which one is correct, and then recover data individually or the entire environment from one of those copies back to production. Existing security applications can also leverage open API commands to trigger Safeguarded Copy as needed.

The orchestration of this is done via IBM services pulling these components together. Evolving Solutions partners closely with IBM to bring the Cyber Vault design to our clients—as security is a significant focus for IBM and something we also value.

IBM and Evolving Solutions Key Differentiators

IBM Storage Solutions for Every Need

Storage strategies need to be customized to the client and the use case. It is not one size fits all. Organizations must ensure that there is a menu of capabilities that covers all storage needs for data and workloads. It is also important to determine what an organization seeks to achieve—whether it be the highest performance, the highest performance at the lowest cost, or the highest level of recovery. This is where Evolving Solutions’ prescriptive approach is key.

There are many different answers to client’s needs and different products that meet those needs. Further—for individual use cases, clients can choose from several storage offerings. Deploying IBM storage technology offers benefits such as reducing costs, faster data backup and recovery, simplified infrastructure management, tight integration, data protection, improved flexibility, and better performance. As technology advances, IBM responds with new storage offerings, ensuring clients have the technology and support they need to succeed.

The IBM Storage portfolio offers solutions for many use cases, including:

Data Analytics and AIHybrid Cloud Cyber Resilience zSystems Power Systems—IBM i and IBM AIX SAP HANA Container Based Workloads VMware Networking Converged Infrastructure

Fully Understanding Storage Needs

As an organization looks to assess their storage strategy in light of the latest technology advancements and current and future needs, it is often helpful to have an outside consultant assist with the process. With so many available options, it is important to have a specifically prescribed storage architecture that fully meets business objectives.

At the end of the day, it really comes back to understanding organizational requirements to fully define storage needs and understanding the capabilities of the IBM storage portfolio. Our deep knowledge of the IBM portfolio and the resources available within IBM, combined with the best practice considerations of IBM Power Systems and zSystems, gives Evolving Solutions a unique advantage. Our full-stack deep technical skills for Power, zSystems, and storage combined with our overall integration and HA/DR planning expertise is a rarity among IBM business partners.

Data is precious. It makes sense to use the most appropriate systems to store, use, and protect. Your organization’s survival relies on it.

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