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Let the array decide
"At NetApp, we have the view that selecting RAID levels for specific applications has become rather anachronistic," says David Dale, industry evangelist at Network Appliance (NetApp) Inc. "The best modern arrays offer automated RAID with architectural mitigation of performance or capacity trade-offs."

The idea of "carving a LUN" and not knowing which physical spindles the data will end up on may be unnerving to some, but it's the wave of the future. Technologies like storage virtualization, thin provisioning, index copying/hardware continuous data protection (CDP) and dynamic volume sizing--just to name a few--mandate the automation of physical disk layout.

New, distributed disk or grid storage technologies are taking on some of RAID's data protection duties. "There are many ways to create redundant copies of data without using RAID," writes John Spiers, founder and CTO at LeftHand Networks. "LeftHand's volume replication can be configured to withstand multiple drive failures, array level failures and complete site failures without losing data, and all without the use of traditional RAID algorithms ... the days of traditional RAID systems may be coming to an end."

Other storage array companies are also heralding the end of RAID as we know it. "While most vendors assign a single tier or RAID level to a volume, Compellent assigns these parameters on

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a block basis," observes Bob Fine, Compellent's director of product marketing. "Both data classification and data movement are automatically tuned by the array."

For very highly specialized application workload profiles, such as CASE and video editing, manual storage configuration might still be worth considering. But for mainstream applications, like Exchange, SQL Server, Oracle and ERP, storage vendors offer very appropriate automation solutions.

Click here for an overview of RAID performance levels. (PDF).

This was first published in November 2007

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