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Life is full of choices. Should you, for example, buy a big-box storage system from a single vendor or mix and match open system components? Remember, however, as your first-grade teacher annoyingly preached: "With every choice, there's a consequence."
And any choice offers pros and cons on each side of the issue. Monolithic and modular storage both take advantage of the movement toward network storage through consolidation, scalability, performance, availability and a better return on investment.
But, here's where it gets interesting: According to analysts, monolithic systems generally provide more robust failover, availability, interoperability testing and professional service. On the other hand, the little guys excel in scalability, performance, management and cost less.
Monolithic boxes usually come with the RAID controllers and disk drives in large, self-contained, one-size-fits-all enclosures. The majority of today's storage area network (SAN)-based storage is in large enterprises where mainframe class external RAID systems were established with EMC's Symmetrix and IBM/StorageTek's monolithic storage systems. Currently EMC's Symmetrix, IBM's Enterprise Storage Server (Shark), StorageTek's SVA, and Hitachi Data Systems' Lightning Series provide this large form-factor storage system capable of attaching to mainframes, as well as open systems server environments.
In contrast, modular external RAID controller-based storage systems are defined by the distinct separation of the RAID controller module(s) from the disk drive module(s). Each module is housed in industry standard racks - which may also hold other general-purposeappliance servers - and separate the scalability of performance and capacity. Modular storage systems are targeted specifically at open systems servers, and typically don't carry the large cache and myriad of connections, Enterprise Systems Connection (ESCON) and Fiber Connectivity (FICON), which are required for mainframe storage. Examples of modular storage includes Compaq's EVA, EMC's Clariion, Dell's PowerVault, HP's VA7000 series, IBM's FAStT series, LSI Logic's E-Series, StorageTek's D-Series, XIOtech's Magnitude, and others.
This was first published in September 2002