Asias Storage Priorities and Concerns

By: Jose Allan Tan

A few years ago I raised the hypothetical question: a terrorist enters your premises and threatens to blow up part of your IT infrastructure. He gives you a choice: save your servers or your storage. Which would you choose?

I wouldn't be surprised if your first instinct is to protect the servers since you have applications critical to your business. You are of course assuming that data is backed-up regularly. But do you perform regular checks to ascertain the integrity of the backed-up data?

A few years ago, I spoke to the CIO of a major Asian conglomerate. A fire gutted their main data center. Although the company never deployed a hot standby data center, they dutifully performed backups of their data every day. So when the time came to do a restore, the tapes were found to be blank.

Business Priorities for 2008

SearchStorageAsia recently surveyed 330 storage specifiers across Asia. Over 76 percent of respondents indicate that containing costs remains a pressing issue for them, forcing many to defer investments only to those that can deliver near-term and mid-term benefits.

Raising productivity follows with 63.6 percent of respondents citing a need to keep employee productivity high to meet business needs. This is increasingly becoming a challenge when economies are in boom as talent often moves rapidly particularly in markets where this is a scarce resource (unfortunately this remains common across most of Asia).

Managers are paying more attention to competition in the markets that they play in (and new markets they want to enter into). The focus on international markets suggests overcrowded local markets.
Other areas cited include showing greater value, meeting performance targets, improving customer service and beefing up security.

IT's Greatest Challenge in 2008

The business concerns are easily reflected within the IT organization although not reflected necessarily in the same order. Ensuring the security of the IT infrastructure remains the number one priority among 52.7 percent of respondents. This is followed very closely by controlling IT costs at 52.4 percent.


This pressure to contain costs is reflected in the selection process for new IT investments. The days when technologies are acquired largely on the back of who-you-know are numbered. The relentless attention paid to return on investment (ROI) is forcing IT managers to carefully evaluate technology investments. Almost 48 percent of respondents say their mandate is to identify the right technology to suite the business needs of the organization.

At the same time, 40.3 percent also note that where possible IT needs to develop solutions without necessarily increasing their IT spend.

Storage Strategies for 2008

Prone to natural disasters and political instability (particularly among developing nations), over 76 percent of respondents claim to have backup and restore (BUR) systems and processes in place.
However, only 44 percent of respondents say they have a disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity (BC) plan in operation. The 42 percent disparity suggests a combination of limited understand as to the difference between the two practices (BUR vs. DR/BC). Less than five percent of respondents indicated no interest in deploying BUR solutions.

The remainder will have something in place this year. Forty-four percent of respondents are currently evaluating DR/BC systems as part of their IT projects for 2008.


With many of the larger enterprises either adhering to local regulatory requirements or doing business with the US or Europe, data archival has become important to companies. Over 47 percent of respondents have deployed an archival solution with another 38.5 percent planning to deploy or evaluate such systems in 2008.

Over the past ten years network-attached storage has taken root in Asia. Many IT managers see the value of consolidating their IT infrastructure to reduce operational costs and improve system performance. Storage Area Network (SAN) is only slightly more popular than Network-Attached Storage (NAS) with 41.2 percent having a SAN or SANs installed at their premises while 40.2 percent use NAS for their consolidated storage needs.

According to survey respondents NAS is a higher priority for them in 2008 with 37 percent evaluating the technology. This is only slightly better, though, than the 34.6 percent who are looking to deploy a SAN in 2008.

That said as a strategy on its own, storage consolidation appears to be less popular with only 29.4 percent having taken this plunge in the past. As virtualization technology matures and gains popularity, more managers see the value of executing a storage consolidation on its own. Over 43 percent of respondents are looking to do so in 2008.

What's not interesting?

With focus on DR/BC, BUR and consolidation, other storage-related projects are not getting much mindshare with IT and business managers. Among the technologies identified by respondents as least important for 2008 are block-level virtualization and wde-area file services (WAFS).

Par Botes, chief technology officer for EMC's Asia Pacific & Japan region, cites lukewarm reception to storage virtualization as a result of the different approaches vendors take to achieve the same results.

"Customers would prefer to see more success and clearer RoI in this area before committing themselves to one approach. Companies that have large, diverse and complex environments who are looking to simplify the management of these environments are all good candidates for early adoption of block level virtualization," adds Botes.

One of the "promises" of networked storage is the ability to access content as and when you need it. An enabling technology is WAFS which makes it possible to access a remote data center as though it were local. WAFS enables an organization with multiple branch offices to centrally manage data backups in real time. You also get immediate, round-the-clock read-write access to backed-up data for all end users in the network, low latency and rapid data transfer speed comparable to local area network (LAN) technologies, continuous real-time updating of backup content, enhanced data security, and simple, rapid system recovery in the event the network is compromised or damaged.

Yet for all these benefits, you'd wonder why only 12.9 percent of respondents to our survey are using WAFS? Of course 36.7 percent are either reviewing the technology or looking to deploy it in 2008. That leaves only about 50 percent with no interest and no plans to deploy.

Botes disagrees with the respondents to the survey. "I think that there is a lot of interest in WAFS because it makes possible access a remote data center as though it were local. It's immensely valuable for large enterprises to centrally manage data backups in real time and provide simple, rapid system recovery in the event the network is compromised or damaged. The challenge remains the network technology that would be required to make this work. Many customers are looking at alternative data de-duplication technology like EMC Avamar to help them with remote office backups at a fraction of the cost of WAFS," he concludes.

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