Despite storage being the foundation on which all data and applications reside, some people say working in the storage industry can be a thankless task at times, and the work often goes unnoticed as it predominantly occurs in the background. Storage is still a decision left until last when it comes to building the right IT infrastructure. Well, perhaps this is the way it should be?
This may go against what you would expect to hear from someone who is working for one of the world's largest storage vendors, helping it to compete in a highly competitive environment and develop its product portfolio. But unless we think like the businesses we supply, there is no way we can build a product portfolio that is going to support their needs. And ultimately this is what it's all about – how can storage support the business' key workloads and truly impact how they serve their customers, be it internal or external.
To understand the role that the storage layer is going to play in an enterprise-class IT infrastructure, we first need to help businesses understand the impact that applications have on their performance, and in turn the level of performance they need from their storage to make sure they are getting the flexibility and support they require.
Many organisations run databases that are mission critical to the operation of the business, and are essential to efficient, reliable servicing of customers queries and orders. In many cases the database application is the business. Without it, there is no business.
That said, workloads can be broken down into three different levels of performance requirement:
- Workloads that require extreme performance, for example, businesses with an online presence, or more importantly those whose business is solely online, require extreme customer performance at all times of the day.
- Workloads that are managed in bursts. At times access to data at speed is not needed, but then when a user requires extreme performance the system is able to manage this (this is the most usual type of workload a business will handle).
- Workloads that require capacity but not necessarily the extreme performance required by others.
As businesses have evolved with the development of the web, the speed of response and availability are often proportional to the customer's perception of service, and can have a direct correlation with customer relationship and retention.
It is not just customer interactions that require extreme performance at all times. As businesses continue to grow into the world of big data and real-time analysis for decision making and business function, access to business applications is often required to be available non-stop, achieving extreme levels of availability. A good example of this is the demand for 99.9999% availability in Revlon's business model.
There are new challenges that organisations face around issues such as Time to Information, Time to Market, improving customer service levels, and keeping ahead of the competition. These growing demands and the near real-time demand for data access and analytics are leading many IT architects to turn to flash technology as an option to meet their business data requirements.