Oracle OpenWorld: 'Unconventional' Vendors Push Storage Envelope

During the Oracle OpenWorld 2008 conference keynote, Tom Georgens, president and chief operating officer of storage vendor NetApp, described several of those innovative storage technologies designed to enable companies to increase efficiency, reduce costs and add to their overall revenue.

"There is proven innovation that can make a significant difference. Most of the innovation is not recognized by the traditional incumbents," said Georgens.

The biggest reason for beefing up the storage portfolio came down to the customers' IT budget, Georgens said.

"Everything we do, we're actually competing for corporate budget dollars, and storage is probably the biggest consumer of those IT dollars," said Georgens to an audience of thousands in San Francisco's Moscone Center. "Even if storage is not interesting, I think the dollars it consumes are."

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And in a time of economic crisis, more companies are looking at ways they can cut costs without drastically affecting their infrastructure or bottom line, Georgens said. Enterprises impacted by the economic downturn with fewer resources and tighter budgets will find more ways to increase operational efficiency, Georgens maintained.

Developing innovative storage solutions would lead to increased efficiency, productivity and utilization, which would ultimately cut overall operating costs, specifically in areas of energy and physical storage space. As a result, implementing these technologies could reduce time to market and accelerate business success, Georgens said.

But in light of an uncertain economic future, implementing storage technology has its challenges, Georgens said. For one, the amount of data for most companies has grown exponentially, with tens of thousands of new files, e-mails and images generated and sent every day. Georgens said that it's not uncommon for a company to have 25 copies of primary data stored in its database.

"In this business, we need to have worldwide, continuous availability of our data -- that goes without saying," said Georgens. "Applications a few years back were not mission critical like e-mail or collaboration."

In addition, companies are faced with more compliance regulations now than ever before, that range from regulatory compliance and auditing policies to industry specific regulations such as HIIPA, which require medical institutions to create and keep personal records of individuals up to 30 years after they are deceased.

However, the biggest "hitters" are increasing budget pressures that companies face -- pressures which include the cost of technology acquisition and usage, "what it costs to actually buy this stuff," as well as ways to operate, maintain and keep them efficient, said Georgens. Meanwhile, data centers are at their capacity with minimal electrical space for cooling and power, he added.

"A key point is that as daunting as those tasks look, there are technologies today that fundamentally change our ability to deal with those items," said Georgens. "Most of these new technologies are not being pioneered and not being promoted by conventional vendors we see in our data centers every day."

One of those technologies includes thin provisioning, which partially allocates storage while cooling the rest of it in one common pool. The customer is then able to dole it out on demand.

Another crucial storage technology is deduplication, which reduces storage costs and consumption by looking through the entirety of customers' data for recurring patterns in order to eliminate redundant information.

"This technology is simple and effective. There's no impact," said Georgens.

In addition, thin cloning technologies create a logical copy of data without duplicating the physical space, which increases bandwidth, improves customers' ability to bring applications online, and brings technologies to market sooner, said Georgens.

"The point is that there's real innovation around storage. It's real and customers are using it every day," he said. "There's a new wave of storage innovation on the way. Adoption is going to be determined by the economic pressures we all face."