Asia: IT Execs Grapple with Storage Needs

The growing use of e-mail and digital media has increased storage requirements while typical budgets have not kept pace

The explosion of data has significantly increased a company's storage requirements, placing mounting pressures on IT chiefs in the region to manage their storage resources efficiently.

Triggered by the growing usage of e-mail and digital media, the need to meet compliance regulations and other various factors, the amount of data capacity organizations need keeps escalating. However, IT budgets have not increased proportionately, Jack Yu, IDC's Asia-Pacific senior market analyst for storage research, said in an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia.

As such, CIOs are under constant pressure to manage "larger amounts of data more efficiently than before", Yu added.

ZDNet Asia recently spoke with a bank and various industry observers to highlight the topmost storage-related concerns IT departments in Asia grapple with. Here are four key areas:

1. Cost of technologyThe most obvious challenge is the cost of the technology, which is "a real struggle for IT people", said Lim Khiang Tong, head of technology at OCBC Bank, in an e-mail interview.

While disk storage has become a commodity and less expensive to acquire, the supporting infrastructure and management tools are still costly, Lim explained. "This is an important issue because, right now, most businesses including banks, are seeing compressed margins due to intense competition," he said.

Lim added that even though costs have been "coming down on many fronts, professional services continue to be well in excess of S$1,000 (US$657) per [working] day".

2. Data securityEnsuring that a piece of data is well-protected is an oft-cited concern and an extremely important component for companies, particularly those in the finance and banking sector. "This is a very real concern because financial institutions are dealing with a lot of private data," said Lim.

As such, preventing information from being intercepted by unauthorized users during the data transmission process, becomes a top priority for finance and banking companies, he said.

3. Business continuity planningAnother key focus that is closely linked to data security is the need to have appropriate data protection and recovery measures. Establishing a disaster recovery blueprint helps ensure business continues to run smoothly and avoid costly disruptions during unforeseen circumstances, such as power failure or network outages.

"Every CIO fears the potential loss of company data and as a result, revenue loss, in the event of an emergency," said Ravi Rajendran, regional general manager for Asean at Hitachi Data Systems, in an e-mail interview.

"Ensuring all files are backed up and kept safe in a separate location is of paramount importance, and this will be borne out in 2007 as more and more organizations put business continuity plans into place," Rajendran said.

Ashwini Bhatnagar, marketing manager for StorageWorks at Hewlett-Packard in Asia-Pacific and Japan, added that data protection is of "extreme concern" for the finance and banking market segment, where most services require high security.

4. Storage resource managementMaking provisions for additional storage capacity, while keeping redundancy of resources at a minimal level, is a challenge most IT administrators face.

Lim said: "More often than not, companies tend to build their storage systems based on forecast storage needs over a certain number of years.

"While this is an understandable practice, how do you ensure that your storage provision is enough to meet all business needs, both planned and unexpected?"

"In most cases, people tend to over-provision, especially for top-line applications due to the fear of running out of capacity," he added. "[However], the consequences to this [over provisioning] would be resource wastage--something that IT people cannot afford."

"Yet, under-provisioning storage needs would reduce the ability to respond to on-demand requests," said Lim, noting that setting aside excess capacity allows companies to meet storage needs under a short lead time.

"Architecting the storage infrastructure thus has to be [more about] science than art," he said.

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