Remote and branch office systems are traditionally a burden on enterprise IT teams—and budgets. Today, many organizations are seeking an alternative to current practices.
“Scores of companies that started with relatively few branch locations now find themselves supporting hundreds or even thousands of remote offices. Other organizations are reducing their budgets and asking their IT teams to do more with less,” says Jason Odorizzi, Product Marketing Manager for Entry Storage Solutions at HP. “Regardless of whether the impetus is growing pains or cost reduction, the historical trend of having dedicated resources at each branch office is becoming increasingly impractical.”
Due to their distance from head office, remote offices house their own infrastructure, which requires maintenance, updates and backup. IT managers, who traditionally dispatch human and storage resources to each branch office, need ways to centrally manage these remote systems and data.
“Most companies utilize tape-based solutions to protect and store their branch office data,” Odorizzi notes. “These approaches are generally effective, but tapes need to be supervised, exchanged and stored by trusted individuals at each location.”
A new paradigm
New storage strategies provide an alternative—or adjunct. Disk-based storage, often referred to as online storage or “storage as a service,” is becoming a popular method of handling branch office data, says Odorizzi. He is supported by IDC’s “Worldwide Storage 2008 Top 10 Predictions: New Paradigms,” in which online storage services top the list.
According to the report, “With early adoption by consumers and small businesses, mainly for backup purposes, online storage, or ‘storage as a service,’ will begin to get serious consideration for certain workloads such as medical images, banking records, and legal documents (as well as for companies expanding into new regions) that need to be preserved (and, in some cases, made available for sharing) by being hosted at a remote location as either a primary or a secondary copy.”*
Disk-based or online storage enables an enterprise to route branch office data to central servers for storage, backup and compliance purposes. This reduces the need for on-site administration and tape-based storage dedicated to each remote server.
“Disk-to-disk solutions deliver automation, remote management and off-site backup, easing the replication and storage of branch office data,” explains Dirk Kunselman, Storage Server Product Manager at HP. “This can significantly reduce costs, improve data protection and eliminate the need to manually swap tapes at each site and store them in a third party location.”
The best of both worlds
To realize both the management and cost benefits of disk-based storage and the safeguards of tape storage, disk-to-disk-to-tape solutions can provide a hybrid approach.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with tape-based systems. It’s the management of tape-based systems in far-flung locales that is costly and onerous, and there’s always a risk involved when handing tapes over to someone else for safekeeping,” says Kunselman. “Many organizations are now using disk-based solutions to push their branch office data to central systems, then tape-based solutions to store and protect their data assets collectively.”
“These new storage paradigms allow IT organizations to administer and update their remote storage systems centrally, and also consolidate their costly, piecemeal tape procedures,” Odorizzi says. “They no longer have to fund administrative resources, hardware systems for tape backup or third party tape storage services at each location.”
HP offers a range of solutions that help ease the cost and administrative burden of managing and storing branch office data, including servers, storage and management tools. HP StorageWorks solutions, such as All-in-One Storage Systems, can reduce the storage overhead of remote sites. The seamless blending of performance optimized file serving (NAS), shared storage array (iSCSI SAN) and data protection functions under a radically simple management umbrella delivers value, efficiency and utility without the cost or complexity of traditional approaches.”