NetApp Storage for Windows Environments: Challenges and Solutions

  • Opportunities for improved efficiency and storage cost savings can be particularly compelling.
  • The cost of data management begins to rise the moment you unpack and install your second Windows server with DAS.
  • Businesses increasingly have to do more with less.

Windows environments in today’s businesses can be complex. There are a variety of users to accommodate, ranging from product-collateral hungry salespeople, to engineering power users, to the compliance and cost-conscious executive. These users depend on the many critical applications running on different Windows servers: applications such as Microsoft Exchange Server for messaging, Microsoft SQL Server supporting tasks such as order management, and Microsoft SharePoint Server for collaboration and workflow. Additionally, also found in these environments are file servers to provide Windows file storage used to store critical documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and engineering data.

Each of these Windows servers relies on significant disk capacity for storage, which is typically provided by directly attached storage (DAS) or by one or more storage-area networks (SANs) or via network-attached storage (NAS). Often, the result is separate servers and storage for each type of data. (See Figure 1).

Each of these Windows servers relies on significant disk capacity for storage, which is typically provided by directly attached storage (DAS) or by one or more storage-area networks (SANs) or via network-attached storage (NAS).

Your business is not static, and neither is your Windows environment. Departments grow and shrink as work increases and decreases. Windows servers and storage are added, retired, moved, and reconfigured. The natural tendency is to buy Windows servers and storage that appears to offer new advantages and to overprovision—buy too much CPU power and storage—while budget dollars are available. The result is earlier mentioned separate pools of DAS, SAN, and NAS, each associated with one Windows workload.

These separate storage pools are underutilized, and difficult, and expensive to administer. The NetApp unified storage architecture helps you join these separate Windows storage environments together by providing all your storage resources from a single, centralized storage system. The results: major storage savings and major reductions in how much time you spend on routine administration. With support for all popular server and desktop virtualization products on the market, NetApp storage for Windows environments is also the ideal platform to support any virtualization efforts you are planning.

KEY WINDOWS STORAGE CHALLENGES

Opportunities for improved efficiency and storage cost savings can be particularly compelling with economic and competitive pressures limiting resources and reducing the budget you have available for servers, storage, and software. NetApp storage for Windows provides major cost savings and outstanding returns on the investments you make, whether you decide to eliminate islands of storage, simplify management, rationalize backup and restore, improve scalability, or put a business continuance solution in place.

ISLANDS OF WINDOWS STORAGE

Your business relies on Windows file servers and applications such as Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint Server, and Exchange Server running on a variety of servers and storage; every need for new capabilities seems to require another server and yet more storage.

The result is different and completely separate Windows storage systems—often one system per application–scattered all over. Much of this storage is underutilized—typically, isolated disks are less than 30% full—wasting money and time. Meanwhile, some servers seem to be chronically low on storage, even though you’ve got plenty of space elsewhere on your network.

INEFFICIENT AND EXPENSIVE ADMINISTRATION

The cost of data management begins to rise the moment you unpack and install your second Windows server with DAS. Having multiple servers and multiple individual storage systems means that all the routine administrative tasks—patching; maintaining antivirus software; managing backups; and finding and restoring lost files, messages, or data sets—must be performed in duplicate, triplicate, or worse.

As disks get cheaper and data proliferates, your storage footprint also expands. Backup windows lengthen, and backups occur less frequently and sometimes fail altogether. The results of managing multiple servers and individual storage systems in a complex environment are high infrastructure and operational cost, reduced availability, and ongoing management problems.

LIMITED RESOURCES AND FLAT TO DECLINING BUDGETS

Businesses increasingly have to do more with less. You may need to cut IT costs, including shrinking spending on software, storage, and “overhead” functions such as administration, while accommodating data growth. In today’s business climate, the IT projects that are easiest to justify are those that reduce costs, enhance agility, and improve operational efficiencies. NetApp solutions can decrease your total cost of ownership and simplify storage administration while increasing availability and scalability.

NETAPP SOLUTION ELEMENTS

This section describes NetApp’s unified approach to addressing the challenges described above. The benefits of NetApp storage for Windows environments include:

  • Consolidation
  • Simplified management
  • Improved backup and simplified recovery
  • Assured availability
  • Improved scalability

CONSOLIDATION

Pooling all your Windows application data and Windows files on NetApp unified storage reduces complexity, eliminates silos of storage, dramatically increases storage utilization, shrinks your physical storage footprint, and reduces the number of management interfaces you have to deal with. Easy-to-use, intuitive NetApp administration tools enhance your effectiveness.

Customers using NetApp storage as part of their virtualization efforts have significantly reduced the amount of storage they need. In fact, NetApp’s 50% Virtualization Guarantee program guarantees that you will use 50% less storage with NetApp than with traditional storage and is applicable to Citrix, Microsoft, and VMware® environments.

Because managing individual storage is time consuming and making changes in such an environment can be complex, consolidating onto the NetApp unified storage architecture helps simplify management and reclaim time and resources spent on daily management tasks.

SIMPLIFIED MANAGEMENT

Because managing individual storage is time consuming and making changes in such an environment can be complex, consolidating onto the NetApp unified storage architecture helps simplify management and reclaim time and resources spent on daily management tasks.

NetApp management solutions integrate with and leverage existing management tools, such as Microsoft System Center, and automate administrative tasks—enhancing your productivity. NetApp management software includes a variety of tools that can help you manage physical storage, application and file data, and storage services such as backup and recovery processes.

For unstructured data, NetApp VFM (Virtual File Manager) simplifies your file storage management by allowing you to create a single, unified view of file storage. Using this single view and the VFM reporting and management engine, you can automate reporting and management tasks, making it much simpler to perform operations such as migrating and tiering files in your Windows environment.

IMPROVED BACKUP AND SIMPLIFIED RECOVERY

Creating backups can take a long time, and as a result, you probably back up less frequently than you’d like. Windows backups can also be network and resource intensive because they repeatedly transfer redundant data and require constant monitoring. With NetApp storage for Window environments, you can effortlessly back up and recover all your Windows files, virtual machines, Exchange mailboxes, SQL Server databases, SharePoint data sets, and other Windows application data in minutes. With NetApp, you can back up more frequently with less impact. Our Snapshot™ technology allows frequent, near-immediate backup with no disruption.

NetApp enables users to restore their own files through access to previous Snapshot copies, reducing the number of frantic calls to the help desk. NetApp SnapManager tools make it simple to recover all or part of your Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, or SharePoint Server environment, including single mailboxes from previous backups, dramatically reducing the time spent to successfully restore from backups.

ASSURED AVAILABILITY

Your business depends on the reliability of your Windows environment. NetApp helps you safeguard all your Windows messages, files, and data sets—locally or remotely—to achieve higher availability and reduce risk. We protect both your Windows files and Windows application data for reliable data access, whether that means quickly restoring a mailbox or recovering from a natural disaster, and you can choose the solution that is right for your needs and budget.

These capabilities can be further extended through a selection of additional data protection technologies, including mirroring data and failing over to a remote site when your environment requires it. This is especially useful if 24X7 operation of your Windows environment is critical to your business.

IMPROVED SCALABILITY AND HIGHER STORAGE EFFICIENCY

NetApp has developed a number of technologies to store, scale, and manage data efficiently, so that you get the maximum utilization from your NetApp storage. Utilization on traditional storage systems averages only 20% to 30%, while NetApp customers are typically able to exceed 65% utilization, storing more data in less space and getting more from their investments. The RAID-DP technology mentioned above saves 46% versus the data mirroring that is common with other solutions.

The NetApp Snapshot capability allows you to perform instant backups with no performance impact. Space efficient Snapshot copies form the basis of all NetApp data protection technologies. Snapshot copies are point-in-time copies of your data volumes that can be created in less than a second regardless of the size of the volume. Snapshot copies only consume additional space as changes are made, so they are highly space efficient versus competing methods, and a NetApp volume can store up to 255 Snapshot copies with no performance impact.

IMPACT TO THE BOTTOM LINE

As you’ve seen, NetApp storage for Windows environments lets you consolidate underutilized Windows file servers, Windows application storage, and storage for your virtual desktop and server environments to improve storage efficiency while eliminating the overhead associated with managing traditional silos of Windows DAS, NAS, or SAN.

Recent studies of NetApp, EMC, and HP customers compare spending on storage infrastructure for file serving, messaging, and database application storage. These studies show that customers using NetApp spend 30% to 40% less than those using EMC Celerra to meet their file service needs. Similarly, NetApp customers report saving 30% to 40% versus EMC CLARiiON and HP EVA for messaging and database. These studies include both upfront costs and ongoing management, but they do not take into account the potential benefits of deduplication, thin provisioning, or other NetApp storage efficiency technologies.

A recent study by Forrester Research showed that customers that consolidated just their Windows file storage on NetApp repaid those investments in 19 months or less, with much of the gains coming from reduced administrative costs. The savings from consolidating all the storage associated with Windows file service, Windows applications, and virtual environments—a capability that no other storage vendor can deliver—are arguably even greater than those described above.

CONCLUSION

Consolidating your Windows files, Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, and SharePoint Server data as well as server and desktop virtualization environments on NetApp unified storage dramatically reduces the cost of purchasing and managing storage in Windows environments. Storage utilization increases, managing and maintaining storage become simpler, and headaches associated with backup and restore are eliminated. Unique NetApp technologies—including our unified storage architecture, reliable RAID-DP, near instantaneous backups, advanced replication, and policy-based automation—let you consolidate with confidence.

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