Saturday, March 13, 2010

Introducing The Storage Evolution

What come so mind when you think about storage? There’s so much to consider. Do you think of primary storage, the world where servers directly access their information via methods such as direct attached disk (DAS) storage area networks (SANs) and network attached storage (NAS). Do you think about secondary storage, the realm of backups and archives, virtual tape libraries (VTLs), automated tape libraries (ATLs) and long-term repositories (disks, optical platters, tapes or whatever makes sense at the time).

For me, I have four evolutionary topics mapped out. When I sit down to discuss where the action is taking place in storage, I can usually distill it down to four keys areas:

  1. Virtualization
  2. Deduplication
  3. Grid
  4. Encryption

Now there are a lot of other topics to talk about, such as solid-state disk (SSD), but I consider that just another media type, such as a 600 GB FibreChannel (FC) or a serial attached SCSI (SAS) disk. Information lifecycle management (ILM), automated policy-based migration and hierarchical storage management are  worthy topics, and I’ll discuss that in some future post.

A discussion can be had on infrastructure or plumbing and the evolution of FIbreChannel. People are faced with options, FC, iSCSI and the newest kid on the block FibreChannel over Ethernet (FCoE). Other TCP/IP-based protocols such as NFS and CIFS are gaining ground. Who needs block access anyway? I can run VMware and Oracle directly over NFS, and get amazing performance over what you might have on the floor today.

Professionally, I spend a lot of time enabling point-in-time copies (snapshots), as well as mirroring for replication to another data center. These are certainly areas I hit upon in every initial storage discussion I have, but it’s not exactly a evolutionary topic. It’s assumed to be standard these days – it should just be in there. Data protection deserves it’s own topic, especially when comparing crash consistent and application consistent states. I’ll certainly get to that.

Other types of protection should be inherent to the box itself with no single points of failure.  Whether that protection is RAID, or some other reliable economical method, I expect it. I demand dual controllers and shelf modules to be redundant. I want hot firmware upgrades on all components from controllers, to shelves to drives.

There are endless discussion points; I’ll try and get to many of them but there are still my killer four.

When I talk about virtualization, deduplication, grid and encryption no single vendor has it all. Each has strengths in different areas. In my next few posts, I’m going to attempt to delve into what I mean by each topic one by one.

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