Larry Orecklin, Tivoli's vice president and general manager of storage management business, explains why companies' data is worth its weight in gold, and should be handled with care
Information Technology is the fastest moving industry in the world. Ongoing developments to hardware and software mean that it never stands still. And as we become increasingly reliant on computers, so we become increasingly reliant on the data produced. Today, it is critical to the success of many businesses that they have an effective strategy for storing and using this data.
Data, and the information created from that data is the currency of the business world today, just as gold and money is the currency of the financial world. And, just like when gold becomes damaged or impure, it instantly loses its value, so does business or personal data.
Information is similar to money or other costly commodities in another respect. It only achieves its full worth, and becomes truly valuable, when it is being used. The IT industry's key role is to make information freely and widely available to those who own it, and need to use it, while at the same time ensuring it is safeguarded, and not devalued.
The heart of any economy is the financial system that controls the currency, underwrites it, and guarantees it is not counterfeit. For the IT industry, Storage Area Networking (SAN) will have some of the same effects on the information economy, that the creation of an effective banking and financial system had on the agricultural and industrial economies of the past.
Before the introduction of a trusted and secure banking system, money was hoarded, and very little circulated, because there were few, if any safeguards; no guarantees that you would see it again if it was entrusted to someone else, and no protection against it being devalued. So individuals and government, usually rulers, guarded their fortunes, and very little was used to grow the economy.
Today, companies like Tivoli are doing for information what bankers did, and still do, for money. They are making it available, while guarding it against all types of perils and misuse. Unheard of only a few years ago, SAN technology now offers an organisation the ability to invest its data and information freely, in order to grow its activities, while protecting that information against loss, damage, theft, or misuse.
The key to the success of SAN implementation for an enterprise will be truly open solutions, such as those currently only available from Tivoli and IBM. The ability to use a common pool of storage from different sites is a hallmark of a SAN network of tape and disk storage devices, and allows the centralised management and phased approach to SAN implementation that IT professionals are seeking. More data and more information is available for use, more easily.
However, although rapid strides have been made in SAN technology, and a great deal of implementation work is under way, analysts do not expect to see true SAN solutions up and running until the last quarter of 2000. To achieve a genuine SAN solution, the following are the basic conditions that the network must meet:
- Any-to-any interconnection of servers and storage systems
- Universal access and sharing of resources
- Centralised resource management
- Excellent information protection and disaster tolerance
- High levels of security and data integrity, in system architectures
- Massive scaleability, to cope with the future explosive growth in information technology deployment
SAN is not the ultimate cure for the challenges that e-business, and the exponential growth in storage capacity and data protection, are bringing to the IT manager. However, it is an essential component in the future of business IT. Terms like multi-vendor tape resource sharing, and LAN-free data transfer over established IP and fibre channel networks, will become common in the coming year, as companies meet the challenge of using SAN technology to provide business advantage.
Preparing for a SAN environment will consume many resources in the coming year, and the selection of business partners, such as IBM and Tivoli, will be an essential prerequisite for success. As further improvements, such as disk and data come online, the ability to integrate with a broad range of technologies will become increasingly important.
Any national financial system is so large that it requires cooperation between banks to be successful. Today's IT environment is even more complicated, but it has created partnerships to address that complexity, and which can benefit the IT business user.
The Tivoli-Ready programme is a successful example of how many, sometimes competing companies, have come together to ensure that customers can get the best solutions to their technology challenges. More than 1,000 service providers, IT management experts, and product partners make up the Tivoli-Ready program and they are capable of resolving almost any SAN challenge that their customers will face in the coming year.
The adoption of SAN technology will be a challenge for companies that rely on IT for their business advantage. But, it is a challenge that can result in real rewards for those companies that get it right.