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Another feature of vSphere worth mentioning, though it's not specifically part of the APIs for Data Protection, is Changed Block Tracking. This feature tracks the changed blocks of a virtual machine's virtual disk, allowing backup applications to immediately identify changes since the last backup and to copy only those changes, thereby reducing backup time and network traffic. "It's part of the bigger picture of making backup more efficient," ESG's Whitehouse said.
For users, efficiency and reliability are obviously critical. "If you can't have data protection in place without being disruptive or causing issues in the environment, no one is going to roll out production applications in the hypervisor," Whitehouse said. By allowing third-party vendors to interface with the hypervisor directly, the vStorage APIs and other vSphere features go a long way in improving the overall storage and data protection picture for VMware users.
4. Scale-out NAS
Scale-out NAS has been a proven technology waiting for the right problem to solve. That problem has emerged amid a perfect storm of rampant unstructured data growth and the limitations of traditional NAS systems. The technology's ability to scale capacity and performance with relative ease has attracted organizations trying to cope with massive unstructured data storage needs due to the increased use of rich-media digital information and the constraints of regulatory compliance requirements.
According to Jeff Boles, a senior analyst and director of validation services at Taneja Group, scale-out NAS, also often called clustered NAS, can solve a lot of problems. "Scale-out NAS has been out there for a while, and certainly offers the ability to serve a wide range of needs from a single unified repository," Boles said. "You can do the primary NAS just as much as you can do the archive stuff."
While scale-out NAS deployments are certainly increasing, they've yet to span multiple vertical markets. "There are specific use cases [that] drive people to scale-out NAS today -- that's still very much the pattern." Boles said. "For [these deployments], we're seeing much wider-spread adoption this year than we ever have in the past."
Those use cases include media and entertainment, telecommunications, cloud services providers, life sciences, and energy exploration and simulation -- environments with very large data sets and the need to drive down per-gigabyte storage costs. "Scale-out NAS can do a lot to unify a storage infrastructure," Boles said. "[It can] create one big storage infrastructure you can manage through a single view or set of tools."
According to StorageIO Group's Schulz, the emergence of scale-out NAS has shifted the industry's perception of near-line storage. Instead of automatically archiving data after 30 days, scale-out NAS allows companies a low-cost alternative. "It's the new near-line," Schulz said. "The new model is to move [data] onto lower cost bulk storage where it's accessible but at a slower speed and lower cost because there's value in having it out there. It might be highly compressed, it might be highly optimized, it might be deduplicated, but it's not tying up prime storage real estate."
This was first published in December 2010