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September 10, 2010
Vol.32 Issue 19|
Page(s) 26 in print issue
New Standards & Technologies Are Taking Hold That Make Storage More Efficient & Affordable
Storage is one of the most fast-paced segments that data center admins must watch. With advancements in capacity come advancements in complexity--and the need to constantly track new technologies that might make your enterprise run more smoothly. So which storage-related developments are worth keeping an eye on?
• Keep an eye on the cloud: Cloud computing-based storage gateways and cloud storage controllers could solve storage headaches.
• iSCSI can be used to transmit data over networks and can enable location-independent data storage and retrieval.
• Other technologies of note include storage pooling and tiering, pNFS (Parallel Network File System), and solid-state drives.
Storage In The Cloud
The technology mentioned most often by far was cloud computing--an “as a service” option that lets your organization access scalable and flexible storage resources and services over the Internet as needed. /b>
“The latest storage trend affecting businesses today is the cloud, and specifically, the mechanism that is enabling businesses to efficiently leverage the cloud: cloud storage gateways and cloud storage controllers,” says George Crump, principal analyst at Storage Switzerland. “Cloud storage gateway technology is entirely new, building on the concept of enterprise-ready hybrid on-premises and cloud storage solutions.”
Lower-cost cloud options are becoming more common as the technology becomes more refined and more widely adopted. But that adoption is far from complete, says Russ Fellows, senior analyst at Evaluator Group.
Fellows says the transition to cloud-based storage can be difficult. “It requires you to allow competing companies to be hosted on the same device with absolutely no ability for one company’s data to interact or be seen by the other--and to handle different billing, management, provisioning, and policies all in one box,” he says.
Storage Pooling & Tiering
Cloud computing in a storage environment could be a key requirement for delivering on the more complete cloud computing model. So could storage pooling--aggregating physical storage resources into groups from which the logical storage is created. Although it has been used successfully in primary storage environments for many years, storage pooling is a new capability in capacity-optimized secondary storage, according to data protection provider Sepaton (www.sepaton.com). Best of all, it’s a way to consolidate and manage all of a company’s physical storage resources in one place and to track and allocate them as you need to.
Another new standard that’s growing in popularity is a cousin to storage pooling. Tiered storage allows companies to manage storage allocation according to actual I/O needs, according to Michael Petrov, CEO of Digital Edge (www.digitaledge.net).
“Everybody knows that fast disks are much more expensive and much smaller, and slow disks are cheaper and bigger,” Petrov says. “It’s easy to provision larger storage on slower disks.”
As an example, Petrov says, imagine a medical image archive being used by laboratories that upload high-res images for storage. If multiple labs are using the system, it’s crucial to upload files to fast disks that can sustain more uploads. Then, once the file is uploaded, it can be pushed to the slower storage in case it’s not needed again. The move from faster to slower storage can be done in the background, reducing strain on the system.
“Before, storage admins would have to do those files using some logic, scripted or manually,” Petrov says. “Today, tiered storage can recognize less [frequently] accessed files and push them to slower storage automatically without interference from the storage administrator.”
iSCSI Gaining Ground
One technology seeing continued advancement is iSCSI, which is short for Internet Small Computer System Interface. iSCSI is an IP-based storage networking standard for linking data storage facilities. iSCSI can be used to transmit data over LANs, WANs, or the Internet and can enable location-independent data storage and retrieval. iSCSI commands can be sent to storage devices on remote servers, allowing organizations to consolidate storage into data center storage arrays while giving hosts the illusion of locally attached disks. Plus, iSCSI can be run over long distances using existing network infrastructure.
“We feel that iSCSI will be sooner or later adapted over Fibre [Channel storage],” says Petrov. Fibre is much more expansive and complex, he points out. Lots of hardware manufacturers license Fibre switches per port, so when they sell large switches, users are surprised that half ports don’t work. They’re often dismayed to subsequently find out that only half of ports were licensed and additional licenses per port must be purchased.
“iSCSI is less complicated,” Petrov says, “and when it caches up on throughput, it will be adopted as a universal standard.”
Removing I/O bottlenecks can have a direct impact on your bottom line. As pressure grows on IT to deliver ever-higher levels of productivity and efficiency, they’ll be looking to a file system standard that can maximize server and cluster resources while minimizing management overhead. Some say the key to that scenario is Parallel Network File System, or pNFS, which enables data access parallelism. The latest protocol, NFSv4.1, includes pNFS and outlines ways to separate file system metadata from the location of the file data by striping the data among data servers.
According to Panasas (www.panasas.com), the NFS v4.1 protocol has resulted in storage management enhancements such as global name space, a feature that can help storage administrators configure different hardware components to look like a single system, as well as head and storage scaling. Also, storage administrators can now perform nondisruptive upgrades without affecting performance. In tandem, these features can reduce storage operating costs, improve storage network performance, and consolidate systems to reduce management hours.
On the hardware side, solid-state drives are gaining more and more positive attention in spite of their still-high cost--about $2 per gigabyte, or 20 times more than the cost of traditional hard drive space. So why are more companies taking such an expensive leap?
“They provide a huge performance boost and [can benefit] high-load, high-performance systems hungry for those disks,” says Digital Edge’s Petrov.
by Dan Heilman
Trade Groups To Watch |
Joel Hagberg, vice president of Enterprise Marketing at Toshiba Storage Device Division (sdd.toshiba.com), points out three trade groups you might be wise to pay attention to if you’re in charge of your data center’s storage needs:
• The International Disk Drive Equipment & Materials Association (www.idema.org) does work related to the Advanced Sector Format, also known as the 4k sector or long sector.
• The SCSI Trade Association (www.scsita.org) keeps an eye on interconnectivity developments, such as 12Gbps SAS (Serial Attached SCSI).
• The Storage Networking Industry Asso-ciation (www.snia.org) is dedicated to the latest initiatives in cloud storage, green storage, and other various up-and-coming storage technologies.