Storage On Demand (SOD)
By John Kan, CIO, Agency For Science, Technology and Research
SOD is a new way of consuming storage via a utility model instead of outright purchase. Previously, organisations would consolidate input on the storage needs of their working community, before calling tenders to acquire the required storage as well as additional buffers to cater for adhoc requests. This model of procuring storage meant that organisations often used only 50% of what was procured throughout the lifespan of the equipment. This is both time consuming and wasteful as organisations would have to pay for buffer storage that might not be usedin order to cater for adhoc needs.
With the SOD platform, we have a committed baseline storage plus a flexible buffer that we can tap on. This allows us to provide our users with almost immediate storage provisioning while ensuring that we only pay for what we use. For traditional storage systems, users need to invest more instorage infrastructure that pose challenges in the form of the need for maintenance and data refresh every three to fouryears. Under the traditional procurement model, storage solutions have to be upgraded periodically, requiring companies to purchase new hardware and migrate data to new systems constantly. The migration process entails a high degree of complexity and costs. As SOD is based on a utility model, the need for inventory, maintenance, migration, technologyh refresh, etc will no longer be a concern. As SOD is based on a utility model, users can immediately leverage on it for their storage needs. This helps to reduce the procurement lead-time from 2 – 3 months down to just a few days.SOD effectivelyeliminates these hassles while being effective in addressing users’ needs.
Operationally, in the event of hitting the high watermark on the flexible buffer storage, it will then be converted to the baseline storage and a
new buffer storage will be shipped in. This continuity allows the users to have “unlimited rapid scalability” on the SOD platform. In addition, there is also an offsite SOD option to allow the users to “overflow” their data to offsite SOD which helps to reduce the floor space requirement in Data Centres. There is also provision for users with different performance requirements within the SOD platform.
With SOD, we now only have to pay for what we use and it will scale with our needs. As users have absolute transparency on their storage consumption, they are now more conscious of their storage utilisation, changing their storage usage behaviour i.e. doing more “housekeeping” which in turn reduces the storage used. It also enables users involved in collaborative projects to share data seamlessly. In terms of data resiliency, there is also a built-in backup capability based on “snapshot-to-disk” technology, which provides users with a fast backup and recovery mechanism within the SOD platform.
Snapshot-based disk backup empowers the users to decide what to backup and only pay for those backups instead of following the centralized backup policy that might not suit their specificneeds. This also allows the users to do their own recovery, translating to faster recovery of data for users.
Some of the user benefits include faster time to get the requested storage space as compared to buying adhoc storage. Organisations will only be paying for the incremental utilisation on a monthly basis. Users only need to budget for their storage consumption using our storage utility price which is based on $/GB/month metric. This is much simpler than buying a storage array. As this is rolled out for the whole organization, the price is more competitive as compared to users buying their own storage. Comparing the traditional method of procuring storage to that of the SOD system, we have saved up to 50% in terms of storage costs.
The key benefits of SOD are summarized as follows:
- Reduced procurement lead time and procurement admin time/resources.
- Reduced risksof technology obsolescence (i.e. availability of the latest storage systems, software, security, regular upgrades, new technologies provided to our end users).
- Improved efficiency in storage management (e.g. no need to buy equipment in advance as a buffer orfor storage spikes purpose).
- Improved end users’ behaviour (e.g. in housekeeping of unwanted storage items).
- Flexibility to scale up/down storage requirements within days (vs. 6-8 weeks previously).
- Reduced storage management and maintenance costs (software, hardware) in provisioning, de-provisioning and demand forecasting of storage.
- Faster automated backup/archiving/BCP/DRP policies.
- More convenient and faster data sharing and collaboration within A*STAR and with external agencies.
- Takes advantage of price erosion over time and over the volume of storage consumed (including tiered pricing model).
- Improved economics of storage management; e.g. for A*STAR, we have already achieved an estimated 9¢/GB/month in storage savings (based on projections of approximately S$240K and S$500K of storage cost savings in FY14 and FY15 respectively).
- Monthly Management storage utilisation reports by Entity, Research Institute and Individual End User.