Sun aims to lower cost of retaining data

“Organizations are finding more and more ways to take data and use it as a competitive advantage,” reports Wayne Hogan, storage product specialist with Sun Microsystems. “I’ve seen financial institutions where the CIO becomes the VP of marketing. The biggest challenge is this: in both the financial and medical sectors there is huge growth in storage,” he adds.

Hogan cites 350 million diagnostic imaging procedures carried out annually in the U.S. alone as prompting a medical institution to manage five times as much storage space as a few years ago: from two terabytes (TB) to 10 TB. A single CT scan is made up of 3,000 separate images, and these have to be stored and retrieved efficiently.

He notes that it has become increasingly affordable to put more and more data on magnetic media as applications multiply. As well, every 12 to 18 months the cost of purchasing storage data devices is halved. However, while it has become more affordable to keep data on a storage device, he estimates “it is usually eight to nine times as much to manage it as it is to buy it…because there are operational costs.”

Hogan claims that Sun Microsystems’ new products and services help manage the voracious appetite for cost-effective storage space required by financial and medical institutions. Sun this year introduced StorEdge L25 and L100 tape libraries, high-end Sun StorEdge 9970 and 9980 systems and StorEdge Utilization Suite software (Sun StorEdge SAM-FS software).

Sun claims its StorEdge 9970 and 9980 systems provide a data centre consolidation solution that helps cut costs and create efficiency. “We have some accounts in the financial arenas that use this technology basically for storage consolidations for multiple servers. They have all their storage connected into one of these very large arrays…to basically have all the storage in one place,” Hogan says. The 9970 more than doubles the storage capacity of its predecessor products.

Hogan stresses that automating the storage system becomes more important than ever. The StorEdge L5500 tape library is aimed at large financial institutions and organizations that have huge demands for tape archiving for data. “It could be automated, so that if the patient who checks into the hospital or is brought back, literally there’s a robotic arm that takes the information that’s on the tape cartridge and plugs it into the library and then it will bring that data back to the spinning medium to have it online and readily available,” he explains. “It’s an example of being able to control costs. Archive data costs are one-tenth the amount of spinning media.

“We’re trying to give our customers tools to put policies in place that gives the CIO or operations manager information they need to manage the storage environment to make policy planning decisions without having to do everything themselves,” he says.

He explains, for example, that Sun’s storage resource management tool could be used to automatically archive to tape a file nobody has accessed for 60 days. There could be another policy in place that if that patient is readmitted to the hospital, the data will automatically be brought off the disk to spinning medium. Such policies help companies look after their storage more economically and avoid paying someone to bring back data manually, he says.

Hogan notes that the Gartner Group estimates that direct attached storage costs eight or nine times the cost of storage hardware acquisition whereas using SAN and NAS reduces that to 4.5 times the cost of acquisition. He says they have sold quite a few SAN solutions to financial institutions, noting that an enterprise where storage changes a lot is a good candidate for a SAN.