| Hewlett-Packard (HP) envisions a future in which storage arrays are replaced by storage blades, multiterabyte storage devices using the same form factor and plug-and-play mentality of blade servers.
"If you take blades to the nth degree, why have an array dedicated to storage?" asks Jim Wagstaff, VP and general manager, StorageWorks Division at HP Asia Pacific and Japan. "The blades could become the arrays."
"End users are trying to scale up and scale out, and storage blades could be a means to that end," says Rob Commins, director of product marketing at storage array maker Pillar Data Systems. He likens Pillar's array architecture, built around the Slammer storage controller, to that of a small blade that fits into a backplane because it lets users scale multiple storage controllers in a single system. According to Commins, the current scalability model in the storage industry, which makes companies buy another storage system as they need more ports for connectivity, more bandwidth and more CPU, "is about as scalable as a Buick."
Looking down the road, says Commins, it's not hard to envision a 10Gb Ethernet storage blade frame going into the storage pool. While the "Buick scalability model" he alluded to would require users to buy a new storage system with a 10Gb front-end interface, in the blade-like model, Pillar would simply come out with a new Slammer controller with a 10Gb Ethernet interface.
While most observers believe true storage blades will appear over the next 18 months, Anne Skamarock, research director at Boulder-based Focus Consulting, thinks it may be sooner. She also has a vision of what they'll look like. "If we're going to bladed arrays with the same type of plug-and-play capability and form factor as blade servers, we'll be looking at a backplane with some internal storage networking capability," she predicts.