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Lower Total Cost of Ownership with NAS Consolidation

By Chris Taylor, Director of Professional Services & Solution Sales, Evolving Solutions

One of the most significant factors in lowering IT total cost of ownership today is to simplify and enhance the utilization of both servers and storage in complex IT infrastructures.

Many organizations experience common business challenges that complicate their storage management and maintain high costs and redundancies.  By implementing a NAS Consolidation solution, these organizations can solve common business problems and in turn, significantly reduce their total cost of ownership.

Business Challenges
Many businesses are unaware of the current state of their IT infrastructure.  Before an organization can go about simplifying its network, it must first analyze the current situation and gain an overall picture of what the network looks like today.

Many organizations distribute multiple low-cost “one application” file servers throughout the enterprise.  As the organization grows, more servers are added to support the growth.  However, server utilization is low, averaging 15%, because many servers are over provisioned in an attempt to reduce risk and provide scalability.  These servers are also unconsolidated, which makes management difficult, backup and recovery complex and costly and maintaining high availability a huge challenge.

Over 80% of Windows infrastructures and over 95% of Windows servers store their data on internal or captive external disk subsystems.  The use of network attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SAN) is the exception.  With predominately captive/internal storage, Windows storage utilization averages 25-35%.  Large Windows infrastructures (90TB+ usable storage) may have utilization as low as 14%.

NAS Consolidation
NAS Consolidation allows extra hard storage space to be added to a network that already utilizes servers without shutting them down for maintenance and upgrades.  The server processes the data and the NAS device delivers the data to the end user.

NAS Consolidation reduces the number of servers being used to improve performance, availability, scalability and management service levels.  For example, an enterprise may reduce 7 file servers into one NAS device.  Consolidating servers in this way can increase utilization to as much as 60 – 80%.

NAS Consolidation Targets Windows & Unix Platforms
Within a Windows environment, radically reducing the Windows file server cap would increase utilization and productivity, reduce costs, management overhead and complexity for daily management.  It would also allow faster access to data because it is centralized, better data retention, compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley, organization structure and data protection.

For example, a Network Appliance solution is compatible with Windows 2000, Windows 2003, and legacy Windows NT and simplifies migration to Windows from UNIX® platforms. It looks and acts just like any other Windows file server in a Windows environment and relies on the Windows Domain Controller for authentication of windows clients as well as it integrates seamlessly in a Windows Active Directory structure. By supporting this natively, security administration and server overhead is drastically reduced. As more organizations embrace and adopt .NET, this type of solutions will allow them to scale and migrate to .NET server technologies.

Within a UNIX environment, using NAS Consolidation to simplify the storage management infrastructure improves data protection, reduces performance bottlenecks and allows data to be shared across platforms.

For example, a Network Appliance solution can deliver high availability and reliability to support critical business operations, rapid restores, efficient backups, and allows heterogeneous sharing of data between both UNIX and Windows environments. Another benefit of consolidating both UNIX and Windows to a single storage solution allows for interoperability testing between platforms, migration of data from one platform to another, and ease of management of data across both platforms.

In both Unix and Windows environments, by consolidating large amounts of both structured and un-structured data on a NAS solution, IT organizations can take advantage of the storage solutions backup utilities such as Network Appliance’s Snapshot and Snapmanager to more effectively and efficiently backup and most importantly recover the data and increase their availability and service levels to their customers and end-users.

Next Steps
Once a NAS Consolidation solution is in place, the organization can modify its IT infrastructure to further reduce total cost of ownership by implementing one or more of the following solutions.

Tiered Storage
A tool assisted approach can be used to identify and classify the organization’s different types of content and data and how often they are accessed.  This data then helps the organization prioritize data and divide into Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3.  Tier 1 data would be placed on high availability storage, which is obviously more expensive.  Tier 3 data would have low availability and, hence, would be the cheapest to store.

By using a tiered approach, the organization can prioritize data and ensure that it is only paying high storage costs for priority data that should be easily accessible.

Placing tiers on a NAS Consolidation Solution optimizes storage capacity and reduces redundancies, which in turn reduces overall expenditure.

Server Consolidation
Server Consolidation allows organizations to efficiently manage and optimize server and storage resources across the enterprise.

Server Consolidation can increase server utilization to 60 – 80%.  Increasing server utilization lowers costs and makes provisioning for server and storage capacity faster, making it easier to respond to new business requirements while improving time to market.  Availability is improved by providing zero downtime.

Consolidating server and storage platforms will realize business benefits including streamlined performance, centralized systems management, and reduced total cost of ownership, and improved security and resource utilization.

Server Consolidation is more than simply replacing a collection of smaller servers or storage devices with fewer, larger ones. Server Consolidation enables organizations of all sizes to simplify yet optimize their system’s infrastructure through the implementation of clearly defined processes.

As companies migrate to storage-centric environments and require the flexibility to grow their enterprise, Storage Consolidation cannot be overlooked. Companies demand the ability to fully utilize and grow their storage assets to meet future requirements and fully leverage their technology investments. This is where Network Attached Storage (NAS) is important.

Content Management
Using a NAS Solution allows organizations to go further down the road with content management and free up capital and resources to go after larger projects.

By consolidating structured and unstructured data onto a NAS device, the data is now centrally located. Now that the data in a centralized storage container, the process of determining data retention policies can now be determined by utilizing a content management solution to look at how content is created, exploited, and most importantly what to do with that data after it is exploited. The data being stored centrally means that it can be moved to other devices such as tape or less expensive storage solutions or even a hierarchical storage management (HSM) type solution.

Consolidation of Backup, Recovery & Archiving
By consolidating servers and the data residing on those servers, such as home directories, files that consist of structured data such as Databases and unstructured data such as word documents to a NAS solution, the data is now in a central repository. Now, the data can be replicated to another NAS device for Backup/Recovery thereby improving Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives. Other added benefits include that now with a tool assisted approach, customers can analyze the data and decide how often the data is accessed, the criticality of the data, and determine the right classes of data and associate service levels with that data. At that point, Tiered Storage solutions along with Tiered Backup Solutions such as the Network Appliance R200 solutions address this strategy with the benefits of their robust software capabilities to improve RTO/RPO and recovery in a disaster. Also, now that the data is in one location, it can be more effectively and efficiently pushed to Tape or leverage a HSM solution to reduce the costs of storing the data on a Tier of storage that may be overkill.


File Virtualization
File Virtualization, the ability to virtualize systems over a heterogeneous storage environment, is an up and coming technology.

While NAS Consolidation can solve business challenges by reducing costs and complexity, File Virtualization enables organizations to share files over heterogeneous storage and, hence, get more out of storage.   This would be a solution to consider down the road when implementing tiered storage.

The Benefits of NAS Consolidation
There is a lot that organizations can do to optimize their storage and server environments.  If an organization is looking to simply reduce complexity and costs, a NAS Consolidation solution will satisfy its business requirements.  Once NAS Consolidation has been implemented, the IT infrastructure has been simplified and the organization has seen significant lowering of overhead costs, it may be time to consider further storage and server options, as outlined above.

In order to achieve lower total cost of ownership, expected ROI and long term benefits to reliability, scalability and cost savings, companies must remember that the key is in understanding their IT infrastructure.  NAS Consolidation will be most effective when the organization has obtained a baseline of current server performance and can pinpoint the types of applications being used and the utilization of resources (including bandwidth).

Indeed, for the organization looking for an uncomplicated and non-costly solution, NAS Consolidation is a great option.