Channel Marker

Mar 12 2009   1:59PM GMT

File virtualization: A reseller’s best friend in tough economic times

StorageSwiss George Crump Profile: StorageSwiss

Right now, your customers are looking primarily for one thing, to save money. One of the ways to do that is to get old data off of expensive primary storage and onto a disk-based archive like the kind offered by Permabit, Caringo or Nexsan. The question is, How do you get the data to the archive?

There are many options available that you can offer to your customers. For instance, almost all backup applications include an archive or file migration module. An archive software application can also be used to move the data. Or, especially now with the disk-based archive solutions that I just mentioned, you or your customer could write a series of scripts that would move the data.

But once the data is moved to the archive, how do end users get their data back if they want to access it? If manually retrieving the data is not an option, using one of the above tools means you’ll also need to use the same tool to set up a transparent link from where the file was before it was archived to where the file was archived. But that’s not ideal. The links are fragile. They can be deleted, confuse backup applications or become corrupted.

Into this mix comes file virtualization. Essentially, a file virtualization tool is to files what a DNS server is to Web sites. You probably don’t know the IP address of SearchStorageChannel.com; to get to the site, you simply type in the URL, and a DNS server maps the URL to the IP address or location of the server. File virtualization works in a similar way. Users don’t need to know the location of the file to access it — just its name.

File virtualization can bring significant benefits to customers. It allows you to transparently move data from a server with expensive Tier 1 storage to another server with high-capacity, lower-priced storage without the end users ever knowing the file was moved.

This makes possible a very aggressive migration to a disk archive. Data can be moved to the archive server within days of inactivity, as opposed to the typical months-long timeframe. As a result, less of the expensive primary storage needs to be purchased. And with all of this old data out of the way, backup windows are much easier to meet because there is simply less data to protect.

While aggressive archiving means an investment in a disk-based archive, they’re designed to be very cost-effective by using high-capacity drives and data optimization techniques like deduplication while offering massive scalability and reliability.

If you have a customer who is trying to cut costs, have them invest in file virtualization.

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation’s largest storage integrators.

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