Change that stands the test of time: Best Practices


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The future is now
What might a future midrange environment look like? By looking at the available offerings, we can identify those technologies whose acceptance is likely to broaden.

In the midrange, there exists a spectrum of storage offerings characterized at one end by the classic midrange array exemplified by proven systems like the EMC Clariion and Hitachi AMS families. At the other end of the spectrum are grid- or cluster-based platforms that can range from in-house designs at companies like Google and MySpace, to software-based clusters targeting the scientific and high-performance computing markets, to innovative hardware offerings from IBM's XIV, Isilon, Xiotech and others. Between these very diverse designs is a range of products that leverage virtualization and offer varying degrees of innovation in one or more areas: performance scalability, improved reliability, fast rebuild and recovery, ease of management and so on.

Storage service levels will likely require some rethinking for designs extending out a decade or longer. Given the growing complexity and interdependency among applications, as well as the need for continuous operations, recovery time objectives for nearly all applications will likely shrink dramatically. This means that some form of replication will likely be a given at all service levels (in much the same way that "everything" is backed up

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With improved availability and recovery common across the board, the primary service-level differentiator will become performance; from a storage-tier perspective, design considerations will emphasize various combinations of performance, aggregate connectivity and capacity. Technology like solid state will also play an important role. At the risk of oversimplifying, a future tiered-storage model could very well consist of the following:

    Tier 0: Solid state for very high transaction rate data

    Tier 1: Fibre Channel/SAS for transaction-oriented data

    Tier 2: High-capacity SATA for everything else

In some cases, Tier 1 could even disappear, resulting in a two-tiered model.

While somewhat daunting, an abundance of storage choices is ultimately a very good thing. We're embarking on a period of significant market segmentation, with vendors creating offerings to target price points and specific feature-set combinations for various audiences. This means we should be better able to tailor product selection to a specific combination of attributes. That just might result in the kind of change that will let us manage all that hypergrowth.

This was first published in July 2008

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