Using Clustered Storage for Nondisruptive Data Migrations

by Jim Lyons, NetApp

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Data migrations are a fact of life within most data centers. In a recent study by TheInfoPro, IT professionals ranked storage migrations as their most time-consuming task, ahead of “perennial time sinks” such as backup administration and storage provisioning.1 Among those surveyed, 18% performed more than 100 migrations a year just to keep things running smoothly—and that was for data migrations unrelated to storage array refreshes.

The good news is that a clustered storage approach can provide nondisruptive operations during routine data migrations and can also eliminate the hidden migration costs that are often involved when refreshing traditional storage arrays.

The Need for an Always-On Infrastructure
Consider PeakColo, a cloud service provider that hosts a variety of enterprise applications on a shared multi-tenant infrastructure while offering customers a 100% service-level agreement. The availability guarantee means that the company must continuously serve application data while performing regular storage maintenance such as load balancing, software updates and capacity upgrades.

PeakColo selected clustered storage systems from NetApp to meet its requirement for an always-on infrastructure. The company is now able to perform routine maintenance and upgrades without the planned downtime required with its traditional storage arrays. This short video demonstration illustrates the power and simplicity of the Volume Move feature that is used to deliver nondisruptive operations to application users. Also known as a VolMove, this capability is native to the clustered Data ONTAP® architecture.

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Cost of Migration With Traditional Storage Arrays
Each routine migration can result in change orders, outage notifications, downtime and lost productivity. But a technology refresh that requires a data migration can significantly increase the cost of a traditional array deployment—up to 45% of the cost of each new system, according to an analysis by Wikibon’s studies show that the average data migration time for a traditional storage array is five months, with some migrations taking as long as 12 months. In the example below, the data migration added more than $200,000 in incremental costs for a new storage array.

Source: (percentages rounded)

The Wikibon analysis recommends a federated or clustered storage approach to remove the cost of migration and suggests evaluation of clustered storage options from IBM, Hitachi, EMC, HP and NetApp to achieve that goal. Of these options, the NetApp® solution was singled out for providing the "most sophisticated storage array clustering approach available at the moment."

Clustered Storage for Always-On Infrastructure
Clustered Data ONTAP supports nondisruptive operations by design and can transparently migrate data and network connections anywhere within a scalable and highly available storage cluster. The ability to move individual data volumes allows data to be redistributed across a storage cluster at any time and for any reason. This data mobility is transparent and nondisruptive to both NAS and SAN hosts and enables the storage infrastructure to continue to serve data in spite of common maintenance operations and lifecycle updates.

For more information on providing nondisruptive operations for your 24/7 environment, visit the NetApp Tech OnTap® community for best-practice guidelines, technical case studies and in-depth interviews with engineering experts.

1 TheInfoPro Storage Study, Market Dynamics Report, Wave 16: 1H 2012.
2 Wikibon, Software-led Infrastructure: Moving to Virtualized Clustered Storage, Feb. 14, 2013.

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