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The Business Benefits of Flattening the Storage Hierarchy

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Many organizations utilize the traditional method of storage hierarchy—using separate storage products depending on the performance required—as the cornerstone for designing and managing their data center storage solutions. Each time the needs change, businesses must not only purchase new products, but also spend considerable time migrating to the new systems. Additionally, as the levels of performance and capacity increase, the costs for of the new storage products typically rises.

However, this traditional storage approach creates many challenges for organizations: the expense of purchasing new products, the need for additional infrastructure and the time required to manage migration. As business needs change rapidly, organizations using a storage hierarchy model are often paying for a higher level of storage than they currently need or are making do with lower performance.

Moving to a New Storage Model

Stephen Solewin, storage solutions architect at IBM, says that the solution to many data storage issues revolves around flattening the storage hierarchy using software-defined storage. Different storage products are deployed based on current and future needs. For example, if an organization has a mid-range system and the workloads now need a higher level of performance, the administrator simply moves the workload from one system to a higher-level system.

“Using this new model, businesses determine their environment, capacity and performance requirements. With IBM Spectrum Storage, when storage needs change, companies simply move the workload to the new hardware,” says Solewin. “Instead of purchasing additional products or changing configurations, the company extends the operating processes and procedures to the new infrastructure with a single product.”

Reducing Costs and Flattening the Learning Curve

Using the traditional storage hierarchy model, organizations undergo multiple efforts and purchases to solve essentially the same problem, which often results in significant costs and IT department time. With IBM Spectrum Storage, organizations have an entire product line that uses the same architecture and software to solve a range of storage issues. By moving away from the traditional hierarchical model, companies only need to purchase a single product.

Additionally, flattening the hierarchical model provides the ability to run the storage platform on a virtual appliance. Behind the virtualization platform, organizations use the same procedures created for the storage controller on the virtual appliance—using any vendor’s hardware. This flexibility also provides the ability to run the system in the cloud and create replication relationships between data on premise and in the cloud using the same software and processes.

Focusing on Digital Transformation

Because of the ease of using the platform and adding hardware for new workloads, teams using Spectrum Storage find themselves with a significant amount of available time to focus on business leads and strategic decisions. Teams that use scripts to automate repeatable processes free up additional time to approach problems from the big picture angle. With many companies still in the process of digital transformation, IT leaders can shift from managing infrastructure to helping develop systems and processes to drive their organization’s evolution into a truly digital business that exceeds today’s ever-increasing client expectations.

“Businesses can now focus on their overall goal—becoming more agile—for their business,” says Solewin. “Teams no longer must focus all of their energy on managing disparate data using different processes and worrying about the economics of purchasing the necessary software and hardware as needs change. Instead, the technology department can shift to being more of a strategic asset to the overall business.”

Creating a Roadmap for the Future

While managing data storage using the hierarchical model, technology departments gain a tremendous amount of knowledge about the infrastructure and the business beyond the specifics of storage. By taking the knowledge gained about how the organization uses data, technology teams can improve the overall operations of the company, which provides a greater benefit to the business than managing infrastructure and systems.

Solewin says that by moving away from hierarchical storage and using Spectrum Storage instead, technology teams can help answer important questions such as:

  • How can we respond to clients faster?
  • How can we help solve end users’ problems easier?
  • How can we better automate client tasks?

IT experts have the unique skill set needed to help answer these questions and, more importantly, create the solutions. By freeing up their time, organizations can grow their overall client satisfaction and revenue.

“Through the new model of software-defined storage made possible by IBM Spectrum Storage, organizations turn internal consumption of resources into tasks that are simpler and more automated,” says Solewin. Technology departments can utilize their expertise to focus more on solving business problems and less on managing the internals that run the business.