January 12, 2012

Planned Acquisition: U.S. Social Security Administration to acquire Private Storage Clouds

News Report

The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) recently published a Request for Information to identify responsible vendors that are capable of providing an enterprise disk storage device infrastructure and related support services for the entire Agency’s data storage needs.

SSA offices in various geographical locations within the United States will need Petabytes (PB) of data storage for mainframe, open system enterprise, and virtual tape equipment. Today, SSA uses controller-based data replication to move collections of data (generally entire systems) between the primary data center and the secondary data center. This is done for disaster recovery purposes, not high availability purposes. SSA data centers are 300 miles apart so the data replication is asynchronous with the secondary data lagging the primary site by about 60 seconds. Performance could be improved by exploting a Private Storage Cloud, having the capability to expand the environment (scalable), to house multi-tenants, and to isolate data from management and performance perspectives, as well as the ability to report on storage usage by application.

In addition, SSA is looking to External Heterogeneous Disk Storage Virtualization techniques for pooling physical storage from multiple storage devices into what appears to be a single storage device that is managed from a central console. This should guarantee the ability to move data between multiple arrays without server/application down time, the ability to replicate data between data centers, the creation of active-active server clusters between data centers at least 400 miles apart, as well as the ability to have the storage accessible from servers running open systems and mainframe operating systems.

Responses from interested vendors will be received by January 25th.

The Technology

Private clouds indicate proprietary computing architectures that provide hosted services to a limited number of people behind a firewall. Advances in virtualization and distributed computing have allowed corporate network and datacenter administrators to effectively become service providers that meet the needs of their "customers" within the corporation.

A wide range of private cloud storage products have been introduced by IT vendors. The storage nodes in a private cloud are linked together with a layer of smart software, which performs several functions. First, it maintains a global name space that allows all the storage in the cluster to be accessed as a single entity, so that administrators can add storage capacity on the back end without having to tell applications at the front end how to reach it. The software also handles drive failures and keeps data available to applications and end users.

A private cloud storage infrastructure should also be able to scale from hundreds of terabytes to multiple petabytes. That level of scalability is achieved not with a forklift upgrade, but simply by adding more servers as they're needed. This architecture provides two major benefits. First, storage administrators can configure and provision new storage nodes quickly and inexpensively. Second, administrators can add capacity only as demand requires, instead of purchasing additional disk space to meet anticipated future growth and then having that capacity sit idle in the present.

Reference: FBO.gov (1), SearchCloudComputing (2), InformationWeek (3)

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