Remember at trade shows oh, a few years back now, the “hot” vendor swag was 256MB USB keys. I’m sure many of you spent time trying to collect them as pokemandisk fervently as kids collect Pokeman cards (or whatever the CCG du jour may be). Just a few years later you’d have laughed if someone offered such a small key up as swag because disk had become so cheap they were probably dumping what was left in stock in those “claw-grab” games that promise big prizes for only 50 cents a try that are the bane of every parent I know.

Disk, so they say, is cheap. And they’re right. Amazingly cheap, in fact.

But storage, storage is not cheap.

Oh, the disks that make up an enterprise-class storage network may be that cheap(er) but the management, the security, the backups, and the networks needed to support access to that “cheap disk” is just as expensive as any other enterprise-class technology. Organizations spend hundreds of thousands – even millions – of dollars to ensure that they have reliable storage for myriad reasons. There’s the general requirement for storage of all those Power Point presentations, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets; both those that are used on a regular basis and those that sit, gathering electronic dust for years but ultimately contain information not only pertinent but important to the business. There’s the storage needed for the many databases that house customer and partner data, orders and financials, human resources and other business-related information. There’s backups and now virtual images that consume even larger quantities of disk not only at the corporate data center but at remote offices around the globe.

Someone, somehow, has to manage all that storage. Has to ensure that e-mail archives for the past seven years are accessible, just in case. Has to move files around as the disks age and performance requirements demand faster access to some data over others. Has to fill out the spreadsheet that tells users on what filesystem they can find the virtual image of WebSphere and that sales spreadsheet from last quarter – and pray that it’s always accurate.

There is a better way, of course. File and storage virtualization technologies were designed to make most of the management and maintenance associated with storage easier and, in the process, less expensive. For example, automated storage tiering strategies can automatically move less frequently accessed files to less expensive storage arrays while moving more frequently accessed files to faster, more expensive storage. Automating such processes mean administrators need not manually determine which file goes where, or optimize storage based on performance and cost by pulling out a slide ruler and calculating costs per megabyte. The system automatically determines how to best utilize the storage based on cost and performance and acts on behalf of the storage administrator, like a digital storage maid service that never needs to be reminded to sweep the floor.

And that spreadsheet mapping file systems to files for users? Global namespaces provided by a file virtualization system eliminate the problem entirely. Users need only remember one server name and can browse to their hearts content to find what they need after that. It’s all there, on what appears to be a unified storage system but in reality is comprised of many disjointed storage systems across the enterprise.

Because file virtualization solutions make the best use of all the file systems they “virtualize” via unification, they also optimize how files are stored and where and make the best use of all available storage – even if it might be unused space on a system used for other purposes. File virtualization solutions reduce the total cost of storage across the enterprise and organizations implementing such solutions ultimately see a payback on their investment in less time than you might imagine.

In fact, according to our just released TechValidate survey, a startling number (53%) of implementations say payback of their investment in as little as 12 months. The survey also showed that more than half of organizations saw a large reduction in capital expenditures as well as an impressive (20%) reduction in their storage budgets.

You can read more about the results of the TechValidate survey here and more about the coolness and benefits of file virtualization from Don in his “Reasons You Need File Virtualization” series.

 

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