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Storage acceleration appliances

Storage acceleration devices are placed between servers and storage systems with the intent of either increasing performance or providing additional storage services, such as virtualization. Because most of them work with existing heterogeneous storage systems, they should be on anyone’s evaluation list when battling a storage efficiency or performance problem. Moreover, their ability to boost performance of existing arrays and pull existing heterogeneous storage into a single storage pool helps extend the life of existing storage systems while providing an overall increase in storage performance and lowering storage costs.

The recently released IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center is a prime example of a product in this category. It combines storage virtualization, leveraging the SAN Volume Controller (SVC) software, storage analytics and management into a single product. It gathers heterogeneous physical storage arrays into a single virtualized storage pool, and supports thin provisioning of volumes from this pool; it recognizes and supports flash in attached storage systems but also allows adding flash to the SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center itself. It identifies high I/O data and hotspots via real-time storage analytics and automatically moves data from disk drives to flash and vice versa. These capabilities enable SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center to significantly increase performance and capacity utilization

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of existing heterogeneous storage systems. While IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center is block-based, file system-based acceleration devices are available from the likes of Alacritech and Avere Systems.

Increasing capacity utilization

Maximizing the use of available disk space is accomplished through the use of thin technologies, such as thin provisioning and thin clones, compression and data deduplication. All these techniques have a common goal of not storing duplicate data while maximizing referencing of existing blocks of data. While thin technologies have little impact on storage performance, deduplication and compression usually do and should therefore only be turned on if the performance impact is clearly understood and acceptable.

Performance and capacity: Inseparable

Storage performance and capacity utilization are joined at the hip, and improving one often has adverse implications for the other. Storage analytics and reporting of actual array performance is a prerequisite for identifying chokepoints and remedying them appropriately. Typically, improving storage efficiency comes down to balancing performance requirements and cost.

BIO: Jacob N. Gsoedl is a freelance writer and a corporate director for business systems.

This was first published in August 2012

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