Change that stands the test of time: Best Practices


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The end of an era?
For more than five years, storage startups have been striving to advance the adoption of virtualized storage in a myriad of forms: SAN-based virtualization switches and appliances, internally virtualized storage arrays, virtualized NAS, and grid- or cluster-based systems. While receiving largely positive notices from analysts, and successfully making inroads in select areas, traditional storage systems have steadfastly remained the platform of choice in the domain of mainstream business computing.

To be fair, enterprise-class storage offerings from nearly all of the leading storage vendors have managed to evolve, in terms of performance as well as advanced functionality, to meet and even anticipate customer needs. They have successfully incorporated virtualization technology (e.g., Hitachi Data Systems' USP), integrated multiple performance tiers (e.g., solid-state and SATA storage), enhanced replication capabilities (e.g., EMC's SRDF family) and added connectivity options. It's safe to say that for this class of storage, future-state technology directions are well mapped and well balanced in terms of stability and innovation.

The situation is a little less clear at the midrange level. Evidence continues to mount that the venerable dual-controller midrange storage array is showing its age and will likely evolve into or be replaced by newer, highly

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virtualized designs promising near-enterprise system functionality at affordable price points.

Among the indicators of the need for change are:

  • Unacceptable, long rebuild times for RAID sets consisting of high-capacity disks

  • A desire for "inside the box," multitier configurations capable of supporting workloads with diverse performance, access characteristics and connectivity needs

  • The ubiquitous deployment of server virtualization, and demand for faster provisioning and easier reconfiguration and data relocation

  • A demand for more robust advanced features, including more versatile replication options and cross-array consistency

This was first published in July 2008

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