In just a month, Microsoft will terminate support for Windows Server 2003, driving the need for millions of tech upgrades because businesses simply cannot run a new OS on old servers. This situation, coupled with big data and the cloud presenting new infrastructure challenges, is forcing IT organizations to change their traditional mindset when it comes to IT upgrades. Gone are the days of determining a storage investment’s value in dollars per GB; now, speed is key to evaluating the ROI.
This fact becomes more apparent when organizations run applications that control key business operations—such as databases, analytics, and online transaction processing—that require both absolute performance and consistent response times to deliver results more quickly, help reach decisions faster, or speed a customer’s transaction. Advances in flash technology, along with its ever-increasing affordability, are opening doors to the enterprise at this critical time.
We sat down with Tom Coughlin, president of Coughlin Associates, to get his reading on the flash market and the current market drivers for CIOs. Read on for the details.
Q: Windows Server 2003 is nearing end of life, and that’s triggering updates of server and storage infrastructure. How different, or similar, are today’s server and storage landscapes compared to those of 2003?
A: Back in 2003, there was considerably less Internet access and considerably lower speeds on average than what is available today. The increase in performance and the greater access to networking technology also are accompanied by declines in the price of bandwidth and hardware. These developments have created fertile ground for distributed computer architectures and the rise of what has come to be called "the cloud.”
Making computing, networking, and storage capacities available through low-cost Ethernet has also encouraged other ways to economize, particularly in higher utilization of system resources and the rise of new models for data retention, such as object storage. This is often done by breaking physical hardware into virtual units that can quickly be made available to users or removed from users depending upon demand. Server software in 2015 must take into account the rise of virtualization, new data retention architectures, the increase in distributed computing, and the use of cloud computing.
Q: What’s the biggest hurdle for enterprises looking to upgrade their server and storage infrastructure for the next decade?
A: The first hurdle is to choose the appropriate infrastructure for their current and anticipated applications and then determine how to migrate content from that older infrastructure into the new infrastructure. The push toward using commodity hardware makes choosing management software an important element in a flexible and relatively future-proof storage infrastructure.
Q: What would you say is the single most important thing that enterprises should do with their storage infrastructures this year?
A: Look at the ROI of continuing current practices versus moving to more modern practices. It could well be that new infrastructure (HW and SW) could provide cost and performance advantages that would pay for themselves in a very short time. Also, be sure to work with a realistic model of what you are likely to need in this infrastructure in the next few years. For example, can you extend the use of current hardware by changes in software or by moving older hardware to a lower-performing tier to support some new hardware? The right choices involve trade-offs between many variables.
Q: What should enterprises invest in to ensure that their server and storage infrastructure remains valuable and that they remain competitive?
A: With today’s rate of change in enterprise hardware and software, organizations must remain aware of the developments that will transform their industries. For most industries, a careful transition to new architectures will result in competitive advantages in terms of both productivity and overall system costs.
Tom Coughlin, president of Coughlin Associates, is a widely respected storage analyst and consultant. He has over 30 years in the data storage industry and has held multiple engineering and management positions at high-profile companies and leadership roles in many industry organizations. Coughlin also hosts the annual Creative Storage Conference, which will take place in Culver City, Calif. on June 30. For more information, go to www.tomcoughlin.com.