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June 5, 2017updated 06 Jun 2017 12:20pm

Software defined storage

By John Oates

Storage is an increasingly challenging issue for enterprise technology. The wave of data which businesses require to function shows no sign of slowing.

Information from social media, from existing enterprise resource systems and from new projects like Internet of Things sensor networks threatens to overwhelm systems.

The business is also demanding the ability to do more with the data collected – a process which in itself adds to the data overload.

There is no doubt that somewhere in all that data there might be business opportunities, and warnings of business threats. But just keeping up is a challenge for the IT department.

Apart from the physical challenge of implementing new storage hardware the speed of the growth can also create a massive management headache to deal with.

Old systems do not allow the degree of automation which the IT department needs to satisfy growing business demand and still have time to look after other enterprise services.

The answer appears to be software-defined storage. This promises to bring an unprecedented ease of management to the storage by treating all resources, whether disc, Flash or cloud based, as a simple resource pool.

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This promises better utilisation of existing infrastructure as well as far simpler management of hybrid systems.

But, like all ‘magic bullets’, businesses should tread carefully before jumping onto the latest bandwagon.

A properly implemented system should not require you to rip out and replace your existing storage infrastructure.

In fact quite the opposite – software-defined storage should allow you to fairly simply bring together various technologies under one management system and interface.

Along with hardware, businesses should beware of throwing out all existing business processes and protocols.

Data siloes might be holding the business back but they might have been created for a purpose.

Think about security and about data protection before dismantling all the internal boundaries.

In less than a year UK firms will have to follow the General Data Protection Regulation which seriously tightens the rules on data processing and storage. Businesses will have to justify any personal data stored and any process carried out on that data. Fines for getting it wrong will change too – going up to four per cent of global turnover for avoidable breaches.

Before choosing software-defined storage think carefully about what the business needs in terms of raw storage as well as data processing for new applications and analysis.

The next step is to look at your existing capabilities – it is a truism that most businesses could be making much better use of the storage resources they have already paid for.

Thirdly consider the data the business is collecting, especially in light of the imminent arrival of GDPR rules. This is a good time to audit old customer databases before you get punished for holding data which should have been deleted.

Only then will you be ready to consider what vendors are offering, what service level agreements are available, and how it can all be integrated into your existing systems.

Finally consider the potential business risks of data storage.

That means thinking about back-up systems, business continuity and disaster recovery and understanding the differences between the three.

It also means getting data protection in place right from the start – GDPR requires you to prove that privacy was designed in from the very start of any new project. Regulation and compliance has always been important for certain industries but those responsibilities will soon be shared by any organisation which collects personal data.

Following these steps won’t guarantee a perfect move to software-defined storage, but they should help you avoid the worst pitfalls of such a project.

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