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May 25, 2007
Vol.29 Issue 21|
Page(s) 9 in print issue
The Future Of Storage
Three Key Storage Trends Will Provide New IT Capabilities In The Next Few Years
Trends in storage technology can often seem like a wild ocean, one that is hard to predict and disastrous when you ride the wrong wave. One slight shift in a current or a gust of wind, and a new trend will make the technology surrounding one particular approach obsolete and cause an additional problem with software that depends on an older storage system for performance.
These three trends hint at calmer waters for IT managers, with solutions that starkly separate server management from storage management, increase speeds using proven technology, and allow managers to see cost savings from choosing a technology with a long, incrementally advanced history.
10 Gigabit Ethernet
Tied closely to how more and more companies are using iSCSI storage—where SCSI drives connect to the network using the Internet Protocol—in small and medium-sized enterprises because of the cost savings, 10GbE (10 Gigabit Ethernet) is the Fibre Channel successor—or at least the smart alternative.
According to Steven Huang, a technical expert with Enhance Technology (www.Processor.com/EnhanceTech), there has been a gradual shift away from Fibre Channel to 10GbE in some SMEs because of the price-performance variables. Today, Fibre Channel is often used in top-tier enterprises where money is no object and the highest performance is the only goal. Conversely, smaller companies do not have the resources, time, or money to make a complicated Fibre Channel system work for legacy and up-and-coming iSCSI rollouts. With 10GbE, theres an immediate speed boost of 10x current speeds.
10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) is really interesting to small and medium-size companies since it offers an opportunity to deploy a high-performance infrastructure without a ton of re-education and to implement tiered storage with more flexibility in disk drives, says Jame Ervin, product manager with StoneFly (www.Processor.com/StoneFlyNet), a company that specializes in IP SAN deployments and products. According to Ervin, Gigabit Ethernet is one cornerstone piece of a storage-area network approach, one that is easier to implement but has the same speed advantages as Fibre Channel, without the high cost.
If 10GbE gives companies a spectacular speed boost for SAN storage, SAS provides greater flexibility and scalability, as well as providing another speed boost in performance while giving IT managers a way to throttle capacity in a more incremental fashion. Small and medium-sized enterprises typically need the multidrive support of SAS because it means using current SATA, SATA2, and iSCSI drives without having to lock into one particular technology road map.
SAS will continue to grow as a replacement for current SCSI products, says Stanley Chan, product manager at storage solution provider Sans Digital (www.Processor.com/Ily). The SAS features, such as point-to-point, higher bandwidth, dual-port options, and port expander, are significant upgrades to existing SCSI systems. Storage manufacturers continue to introduce new products that support both SAS and SATA.
A third technology trend in storage is iSCSI, a method of using SCSI drives with the Internet Protocol. More than any other trend, iSCSI has a major impact in SMEs by allowing managers more flexibility in how they manage storage, without the complications of a Fibre Channel SAN. New iSCSI products are appearing at a rapid rate, due to the remote IP management options. Enhance Technology (www.Processor.com/EnhanceTech) offers the UltraStor RS IP Series, EnhanceRAID Rackmount IP R Series, and the Enhance-RAID Desktop IP Series, just to name a few products from one company. Sans Digital offers the AccuNAS line of products for IP-based storage. Other vendors, including StoneFly and Adaptec (www.Processor.com/Adaptec-Inc), offer ways to integrate storage into the IP network without the typical hassles—and therefore related expense of hiring storage experts to design and build the SAN. SMEs see the added benefit of iSCSI when they implement the solution themselves and then can continue to manage the framework.
iSCSI is really taking off as the preferred way to tie servers into the storage systems, says Don Chouinard, director of product marketing for the Storage Solutions Group at Adaptec. Previously, Fibre Channel was the preferred technology, but due to its cost and compatibility issues, it is now being used mostly at the high end for ultimate performance. Both iSCSI and Microsofts Simple SAN initiative, along with provisioning wizards from the leading storage companies, are addressing this issue.
All of these trends are interconnected, of course. Storage, perhaps more than any other IT sector, is dependent on other technologies and even on the software architecture to be successful—especially in terms of management and speed. The wisest counsel: Ask questions. Any new vendor should be quizzed to find out any trade-offs in how the storage technology works with emerging solutions and how the price-performance variables compare to the elite Fibre Channel road map.
by John Brandon
Action Plan |
Plan disaster recovery techniques for specific storage technology.
Know the entire technology road map for a new storage trend.
Start small in an alpha implementation and work upward.
Join storage professional newsgroups and trade associations.
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