Effective Data Storage In Remote Environments

dreamstime_xs_32304795Contributed article in our business series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

A major concern for organizations with remote locations such as offices and branches (ROBOs) is providing an easy to manage infrastructure while ensuring application reliability. The amount of hardware required onsite is vastly reduced which is a major benefit for hard to reach locations such as weather stations, wind farms and oil rigs.

The concern with these wasn’t just providing IT to a remote location but whether it would stand up to the rigors of bad weather and fluctuating temperatures.

Virtualization to the rescue

The rise of software and its role in creating easy to manage and flexible IT resources has made a huge difference to organizations generally.

Advances in software development has ushered in the era of the software-defined data centre (SDDC) where servers and storage are virtualized so as to create a more flexible and easier to manage infrastructure that can meet changing needs at very short notice.

The solution

It’s now possible to provide data storage facilities while reducing hardware costs as virtual SANs (Storage Area Networks) can take the place of hardware-based SANs. The huge reduction in costs and remote IT support is a major benefit as is the ease with which the IT infrastructure can be provided to a multitude of locations from one central location.

A key benefit is high uptime; for example, one vendor’s storage SAN (discussed below) works by having two servers synchronized (mirroring) so that, if one server goes down, another is ready to take over seamlessly. This is a tremendous benefit to difficult to reach oil rigs and the like as the time taken to work on malfunctioning equipment can pose obvious major problems.

How it works

Using a hypervisor and a virtual SAN (Storage Area Network) – an IT structure is created which, in some cases, may be able to use existing hardware resources to meet changing needs. By configuring the software based on the existing IT setup and requirements, resources can be managed to include providing IT support to remote locations.

Hypervisors from market leaders VMware, developers of vSphere, and Microsoft with Hyper-V are used in conjunction with virtual SAN software such as SvSAN from virtual storage software specialists StorMagic to provide storage virtualization.

Existing hardware such as commodity X86 servers can be used with certain virtual SANs such as the one discussed above, and their resources are managed by the software above according to demand.

Who uses it?

Various types of industry and business are using virtual solutions to provide IT to difficult to reach remote locations. The German army – requiring field IT facilities administered from one central point – have embraced virtual SAN technology as described above as have energy companies such as E.ON requiring reliable IT support to their remote weather stations and wind farms.

Oil rig suppliers have also implemented virtual storage solutions to make it easier and far more cost-effective to provide data storage to oil facilities.

A fast growing industry

With the costs of hardware and the desire to save on power use and improve green credentials, it’s no surprise organizations are turning more and more to software and virtualization. Many consultants and IT specialists are advising their clients to embrace it due to the flexibility and cost-effectiveness offered.

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