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General-purpose database storage
Although high-throughput transaction processing tends to get the most attention when databases are discussed, there is an enormous number of general-purpose database installations with easier requirements to meet than transaction processing. These servers support an incredible variety of business applications, from material resource planning and accounting packages to specialized lines of business applications.

General-purpose database systems tend to have more I/O activity than office application or e-mail servers. Unlike these other servers, database systems tend to access more of their data over an extended period of time. Performance and reliability are much more important because these databases may be used for primary business operations and can impact corporate productivity.

The requirements for these databases vary widely, but if the business depends heavily on them, then it makes sense to invest more heavily and avoid problems. Capacity requirements can be surprisingly small. Some databases don't need much storage capacity and could theoretically operate with 200GB capacity disk drives.

In general, these servers merit FC storage based on the requirement for critical reliability and lower latency. This isn't to say high reliability SATA drives won't do the job, but they haven't been in the market that long, and a more conservative technology approach is prudent.

Another

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option for database storage is an industrial-strength NAS system. For instance, Oracle databases run perfectly well on NAS systems. As it turns out, most of the concerns voiced about using NAS for databases are related to questions about network reliability. If you're going to install a SAN with fiber optic cabling, you could install the same cabling and use it for NAS to get the same level of network reliability.

New storage technologies such as iSCSI and SATA and new developments in older technologies such as WORM and NAS can be applied and tuned to meet a wide range of changing storage requirements. The model of the high-performance, high-availability FC SAN doesn't necessarily translate to applications such as e-mail, which need scalability and little else.

Of all applications, the one posing the most challenges today is e-mail--particularly the archiving of e-mail data. If you save money deploying storage for other servers, you may have more available to spend on this difficult and critical area.

This was first published in July 2004

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