Virtualization Cutting Storage Costs for Some Large Firms

Maturing technology quickly boosts capacity for bank unit, health center

SAN DIEGO -- Storage virtualization technologies, showing signs of maturity, have become an appealing option for some large companies looking to make better use of installed physical resources to keep up with escalating storage demands.

In interviews at last weeks Storage Networking World conference here, sponsored by Computerworld and the Storage Networking Industry Association, several IT managers talked about how storage virtualization is cutting technology and management costs at their organizations.

Gary Berger

Gary BergerGary Berger, vice president of technology solutions at Banc of America Securities Prime Brokerage, said his company began looking at virtualization in 2005, when it found it was unable to fully utilize a fragmented IT environment running in multiple data centers.

At the time, the firms storage system was plagued by management and performance problems, which Berger said were caused by silos of direct-attached storage, coarse whole-disk allocation issues and overprovisioning.

The Bank of America Corp. subsidiary provides hedge fund clients with access to hosted Microsoft Exchange, archiving, IP telephony, file sharing, voice-over-IP and disaster recovery services.

Banc of America Securities built a virtualized storage system for the hosted service using technology from IBM and 3PAR­data Inc. to carve physical disks into 256MB chunks, improve I/O throughput and enable streamlined thin provisioning. Prior to implementing virtualization, the companys storage systems failed four or five times per month, according to Berger. But the virtualized system hasnt failed since it was installed a year ago, he said.

It was important for us to leverage this technology, Berger said. You can imagine what we can do with it from a hosting perspective.

Since it adopted the virtualized model, Berger said, his company has cut its storage administration costs by 95% and the need for more storage capacity by 50%. He also credited virtualizations service delivery and disaster recovery replication capabilities with further reducing IT costs.

Compliance Aid

Sacramento-based UC Davis Health System implemented a virtualized storage system late last year as part of an effort to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requirements.

Alejandro Lopez, storage manager for technical support and information and communication services, said the regulations require the academic medical center to use a system that can securely house and move medical images and records.

The health care operations virtualized system includes an IBM AIX-based mainframe connected to IBM Shark ESS 520 and FAStT storage servers, Lopez said.

Last December, it began using the native capabilities in a newly installed Hitachi Data Systems Corp. TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform to virtualize tape on the mainframe and storage systems, Lopez said. The IT operation can now store 4TB of cardiology images and PDF documents, previously held on optical disc systems, in the virtual AIX environment, he added.

By moving to cheaper storage [through virtualization], we saved about 40% in costs, said Lopez. He acknowledged that he first planned to virtually store only 500GB because he was unsure whether the technology would meet his needs. However, he said, the initial success persuaded him to go forward with 4TB.

Lopez noted that he discussed the project with a number of users at SNW and concluded that several didnt fully understand the concept of virtualization.

I think theres a misconception by people who think of virtualization as a solution instead of as a tool, he said. Every vendor has in their mind what virtualization means. At the end of the day, end users are confused.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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