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Getting the most from your storage system is a basic requirement, but with many efficiency techniques you’ll have to decide if performance tops capacity utilization.

A challenging economy may have been the original impetus for improving the efficiency of installed storage systems, but now it’s just a way of life for data storage managers. Dismal disk capacity utilization of well under 50% and underutilized storage controllers with only a fraction of their processing resources tapped is increasingly unacceptable in most IT shops. Inefficient storage operations have become a sore spot in data centers where server consolidation and virtualization have been able to maximize the use of physical server resources.

Server virtualization has not only set an efficiency precedence that storage systems must follow, it’s coercing storage systems to become more efficient. Utilization of a storage array that lacks the ability to allocate capacity and storage resources granularly declines as the number of servers connected to it increases. To maximize the impact of data center consolidation, server virtualization and efficient storage must go hand-in-hand.

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Storage efficiency is a combination of maximizing the use of both available storage capacity and processing resources, which often turn out to be competing efforts. “In order to achieve a required number of IOPS, a storage system may be designed with a very large number of spindles with dismal capacity utilization and, vice versa, very high capacity utilization achieved by leveraging thin technologies, [such as] compression and deduplication, [which] may have adverse performance implications,” said Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at Stillwater, Minn.-based StorageIO. Achieving efficient storage requires a balancing act of optimizing the utilization of available resources (capacity and processing power), performance and cost under the governing boundaries of application requirements.

This was first published in August 2012

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