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Articles in Information Technology publications tease us about new uses of technology. It s wise to pay attention to them, because today s article about what s possible quickly turns into reality. There are several applications emerging now that are the logical extension of SAN technology.
It s great to have a lot of your own storage, but wouldn t it be useful to rent just what you need for as long as you need it? It could be a lifesaver to call the Acme Data Storage Company in the morning and say, I need 300 GB for a month. Having worked out the connection technology in the past, you expect the storage company representative to tell you that your disk space will be available that afternoon.
For a temporary project, you could give up the rented storage as soon as it was complete. For a permanent application, you get things running at the storage company while waiting for your new 300 GB disk array to be shipped and installed.
If the price picture looks good to you, you could leave your data at the storage company permanently. Potentially, this is one of the most problem-free methods of managing mass storage.
This Storage Service Provider (SSP) is a descendant of the service bureau of the 1960s. Then, you could have your work done on the service bureau s mainframe, often delivering input and picking up output literally over the counter.
Will enterprises trust another business to manage their data? From past history, it would seem so. Also, there s a current trend to outsource many other business functions, so why not data?
All equipment manufacturers stress that your data is an asset ”an invaluable asset. Perhaps storage-on-demand vendors will promote the idea that your data is too valuable for you to store it yourself.
This line of business is evolving as we speak: the media report that SNI and StorageTek are jointly investigating storage utilities; HP and Qwest have a relationship, and so do HP and Intira.
Since backup tends to be tedious and time consuming, why not pay an outside company to do it, or at least the parts you don t want to handle? If an IT department does site-wide automatic PC backup to, say, 1000 PCs in the division, it might want to hire the Acme Backup Company instead of using in-house resources.
In planning disaster recovery scenarios for your servers and SAN, you might find equipping and staffing a disaster recovery site to be too costly. And since you d probably like your backup data to be vaulted off-site, what differ -ence does it make whether you or a backup company own the equipment and do the backup?
A backup company with a good SAN might be one of the great IT profit centers of the immediate future. It would require one or two high-end disk arrays, remote mirroring, local mirroring, and two or three large tape libraries to get off to a healthy start.
Maybe storing data at a foreign site isn t appropriate for your IT department. How would you like to obtain or access your application software from an Application Service Provider?
The Application Service Provider (ASP) Industry Consortium explains that application service providers deliver and manage applications and computer services from remote data centers to multiple users via the Internet or a private network. The group says it s cost-effective , citing savings of 33% to 53% over purchasing and managing the hardware and software yourself. Specific details of application rental are not provided.
True, maintaining desktop productivity applications for large corporate sites is a burden. That burden includes keeping dozens of desktop applications at current version levels all the time, and installing software on new machines.
Any number of variations are possible. You could simply call the Acme Applications Utility Company and say, I d like 1000 licenses worth of Microsoft Office 2000, please . The application company sends the software to your users and the licenses to your license management database.
Some in-house operations already perform no installations. They simply notify users that new software is available for user download from the site repository. With apps on tap, the users could do the same download, but directly from the utility company. Installs and upgrades of PC software can become the vendor s concern.
Increasingly, you will hear the concept of just paying for the amount of an application you use. In theory, an application could execute from a remote site, just like now when applications are resident on a central onsite server. The difference is that, like your electric, gas, or telephone consumption, you d be billed click charges, for only the amount of MRP, spreadsheet, or word processing software you used.
The remote SAN management company may be the ultimate in abstract SAN applications, because the vendor doesn t need to own a SAN. Yet it s a perfectly sensible application for the near future.
Remote management of SANs may be one of the most cost-effective ways for companies to stretch their IT dollars. It begins with the idea that in many companies the central IT department already manages branch-office IT remotely. Those companies have determined that it s not cost-effective to have trained IT people at the branch offices.
Computer hardware manufacturers recognize this. For example, HP sells network appliances such as the JetDirect 4000 (a print spooler) that can be shipped directly to branch offices, where the staff merely plugs them in. Corporate IT does the rest of the configuration over the wire.
Well, then, why not move central site storage management from the IT department to a remote vendor? Simply call the Acme Remote Management Company and arrange for them to provide 24/7 monitoring and management of its data. You no longer need to maintain an excessively large central site staff, whose main job is to watch the disk drives spin.
This idea is already working for LAN management. An Irvine, CA, remote management company cited this math: they charge customers $6000/month for remote LAN management and provide 24/7 coverage. That amounts to $72,000/ year, but that s less than it would cost the customer to hire one network administrator. The administrator s salary would probably be higher, and doesn t include the cost of benefits. And even so, the employee works only one shift. There is already a sufficient number of standalone and Web-based SAN monitoring and management packages to do the job. Generally, the SAN doesn t know whether it s being managed from a workstation in the next room or from a site a thousand miles away.
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