Take Five With Tom Fenton

5 Ways Storage Is Evolving

Be sure to take advantage of these storage industry trends.

With its acquisition of Virsto, VMware certainly understands storage as usual doesn't cut it when it comes to dense, high-powered virtual environments. This technology addresses the so-called "I/O blender" effect that comes from mixing the I/O from many VMs into one stream on its way to external shared storage. It does this by journaling what looks like highly random I/O to flash. Then asynchronously sorts it out to a hard disk. This is more optimization, though, than game-changing storage strategy.

Here are five broad trends in the storage industry that you can take advantage of today.

Flash has certainly changed the storage game. There are many ways it's applied -- at the server (such as PCIe cards from Fusion-IO, EMC XtremIO), in the network (such as Astute), or in the array (such as pure flash and hybrid storage from just about everybody). To make the most of your flash investment, keep an eye on factors like where high performance will have the best impact on the applications for which it's best suited.

We've all seen pre-packaged "converged" racks of servers, storage, networking, and hypervisor platforms from vendors such as VCE, Dell, and HP. These can be great deals if you want a single source and low risk when building a virtual environment. However, the storage isn't necessarily different than what you'd get if you built it yourself. In some ways, running a virtual storage appliance is a type of convergence that architecturally shifts the burden of hosting storage directly onto your hypervisors. Taking things a step further are hyperconvergence vendors like Simplivity, Nutanix and Scale Computing. These collapse compute, storage and hypervisor into modular building blocks that make scaling out a datacenter as easy as stacking Legos. Purpose-built storage services are tightly integrated and support optimized and highly cost-efficient VM operations.

VM Centricity
As part of a larger trend toward "application-aware" storage, solutions like Tintri essentially elevate hypervisor interactions with storage from having to deal indirectly with logical unit numbers (LUNs) or files to directly storing VM objects. VM-centric storage deals directly with VM images, so it can optimize storage performance and capacity, and provide more intelligent storage services such as data protection, backup and replication on a per-VM basis.

Hybrid Cloud
It would be difficult to find a storage architect these days that hasn't drawn up some plans for using cloud storage as an archive or backup repository. The costs, elastic capacity on demand, and convenience provide compelling reasons to include the cloud in your storage designs. Newer hybrid cloud offerings also offer off-site disaster recovery options (such as Recovery as a Service, or RaaS, from BlueLock). You won't necessarily have to have your own second disaster recovery site because you can recover from cloud VM backups in an on-demand virtual datacenter.

Edge Projection
For those with remote and back offices, placing primary storage at each location is expensive and risky. You can lose data, and local operations that depend on it, due to theft or damage, corruption, or simply unskilled local administration. Recovering a remote location often requires super-human efforts, if it's even possible. Storage projection solutions like Riverbed Granite effectively let you host all data in a secure, consolidated datacenter environment, while optimally forward caching remote office data as needed, including VM images running locally.

About the Author

Mike Matchett is a senior analyst and consultant with IT analyst firm Taneja Group.


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