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Data storage for CIOs

Data storage, whether on or offsite, is one of the trickiest, yet most important jobs CIOs face. And it's a complex job at that. There's data storage, email storage, backup plans and more. This CIO Briefing gathers our top data storage resources.

Data storage, whether on- or off-site, is one of the trickiest, yet most important jobs CIOs face. And it's a complex...

job at that. There's storage management, backup, data center management and more. This CIO Briefing gathers our top data storage resources.

This CIO Briefing is part of the SearchCIO.com CIO Briefing series, which is designed to give IT leaders strategic guidance and advice that addresses the management and decision-making aspects of timely topics. For a complete list of topics covered to date, visit the CIO Briefing section.

Table of contents

  Consolidated storage management drives efficiency
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Ask Dave Dillehunt, CIO of FirstHealth of the Carolinas Inc., what it cost to consolidate storage at the three-hospital system over the past seven years, and he hedges.

The initial investment, which required board approval, was close to the half-million dollar mark. Three years later came a major upgrade, then more purchases. Now Dillehunt's team is adding sophisticated management tools to track and manipulate the stored data. Maybe $2 million, all told?

"To be honest, once we made the decision, we never really looked back," said Dillehunt, who oversees an IT shop of 60 at the not-for-profit health care network.

Of this he is sure: "I am totally convinced that had we not done it, we would have had to add staff and never realized the improvements we've gained in user downtime."

Consolidating storage drives efficiencies. But when it comes to storage, CIOs have often felt caught between the need to optimize their IT infrastructures and the organization's demand for high-performing, accessible applications. There is a growing consensus that the divide is closing, however, thanks to new technologies such as virtualization, deduplication and thin provisioning, as well as a small but growing trend toward platform-agnostic storage management tools.

Learn more in "Consolidated storage management drives data efficiency, delivery." Also:

  Green IT strategies could lead to hefty ROI
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Savvy and forward-thinking CIOs have recognized that ecological concerns aren't just for tree-huggers. Large enterprises, and to a lesser extent midrange companies, are starting to deploy products, and better yet, long-range green IT strategies, to reduce the carbon footprints of data centers. A number of factors are propelling this trend -- one of the biggest is the energy crisis.

On Aug. 2, the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Program released to Congress a report assessing opportunities for energy efficiency improvements for government and commercial computer servers and data centers in the United States.

According to the report, data centers accounted for roughly 1.5% of the country's electricity consumption in 2006. The energy consumption of servers and data centers has doubled in the past five years and is expected to almost double again in the next five years, to more than 100 billion kWh, costing about $7.4 billion annually.

Existing green IT technologies and strategies could reduce typical server energy use by an estimated 25%, with even greater energy savings possible with advanced technologies.

Find out more in "Green IT strategies could lead to hefty ROI." Also:

  • Companies try green storage strategies to reduce power consumption
    Storage administrators are trying to mitigate the growing problems of power cost and availability by turning to green storage -- a broad mix of technologies and tactics intended to reduce power consumption not only in the data center but across the entire enterprise.
  • The green data center: Energy efficient computing in the 21st century
    SearchDataCenter.com wants to help you build the business case for energy efficiency in your data center. This e-book explains the forces driving IT energy consumption, why you should care and how you can mitigate the problem. Each month we will publish a new chapter that will help you implement a data center energy-efficiency plan. The chapters will cover the economics of data center efficiency, how to implement a plan, new green technologies in server hardware, storage and infrastructure, and case studies of companies that have put together successful data center efficiency plans.
  Target's data centers keep pace with rapid growth
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DALLAS -- Doug Hall could be the envy of every CIO whose data center is running out of capacity.

Hall, a technical architect at Minneapolis-based retail giant Target Corp., runs a 28-person facilities management team that sits within IT. The team's job is to make sure each of the company's 4,000 IT employees knows exactly how much capacity is available to them. More important, if someone needs a new server, there's a place to put it.

It's not that Hall doesn't have space issues at Target's data centers. But by using data center capacity management and forecasting best practices, Hall and his team have clear visibility into data center operations. As a result, they've had little trouble making the case for new data center construction.

"We just finished a data center build," said Hall, who spoke last week at AFCOM's Data Center World conference. Two years ago his group was building a business case for going before its board of directors to ask for $130 million to build another data center. Target broke ground in October 2005 and took possession of the building in June 2007.

Learn more in "Target's data centers keep pace with rapid retail growth." Also:

  Remote backup: Making the business case
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Remote backup of data, applications and operating systems is becoming more important for companies of all sizes as they struggle to cope with a growing number of remote workers and a mountain of compliance and legal mandates. It is also becoming more important as companies realize that a tape backup plan is not enough to provide business continuity in the event of a disaster.

Most tape backups involve transferring data each day to a local disk or tape before shipping the data to a central office and perhaps to an off-site tape storage facility. But what happens if a disaster destroys the remote office? The raw data is useless without the applications and properly configured hardware.

Striving to solve that scenario, vendors created remote backup solutions using high throughput and affordable Internet data transmission that back up data and -- in some cases -- applications and operating systems to a distant location. Essentially, there are two options: do-it-yourself software and managed services, to which companies outsource their remote backup functions.

Find out more in "Remote backup: Making the business case to your CEO." Also:

  • Data backup and recovery supercast for CIOs
    Backup and recovery planning can help CIOs ensure the safety of their corporate data. Check out these SearchCIO.com and CIO Decisions articles and podcasts for advice and tips.
  • The Big Hand-off
    Increasingly, midmarket companies are outsourcing data backup. Here's a look at the options and how CIOs are managing the increased bandwidth requirements.
  SAN more realistic for midmarket
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While storage area networks (SANs) have always been on the midmarket CIO's radar, adoption rates among IT departments have been slow -- too complex and too costly, they say. But recent announcements from two major players in the market are likely to stoke the fires of interest in SANs among midmarket CIOs.

Earlier this month, both Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) announced new SAN arrays they say are targeted specifically at the midmarket. Although both companies offer network-attached storage products, SAN will clearly take center stage for vendors and midmarket buyers this year.

Network-attached storage (NAS) is hard disk storage that has its own network address; it isn't attached to a computer supporting other network applications. A SAN is a high-speed special-purpose network that connects different kinds of data storage devices with associated data servers on behalf of a larger network of users.

Because SANs are easier to use and manage than they were just a few years ago, they are becoming an alternative to NAS, said Greg Schulz, an analyst at The StorageIO Group in Stillwater, Minn.

Learn more in "SAN more realistic for midmarket; options keep growing." Also:

  More resources
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This was last published in March 2008

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