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Understanding unified storage architecture

In part one of his Storage Decisions video TechTalk, Evaluator Group senior strategist Randy Kerns outlines two ways to build a unified storage system and explains the differences between converged, unified and integrated data storage products. Watch the video and read the transcript below to find out more.

SearchStorage: What makes a storage system unified? How do we define unified storage?

Kerns: It depends on who you talk to, but the way we like to talk about it with our clients in the IT world is by saying, 'It's a system that can do both block and file in the same system. It will meet the demands for applications that require block access, plus all of the file-based applications and typical user home directories you have.'

SearchStorage: Does that mean all unified systems are architected in the same way?

More on unified storage architecture

View part two of Randy Kerns' video TechTalk on systems for unified storage.

Kerns: No. Two primary approaches have been taken. One is to integrate the capabilities so that block and file are equivalent. They work through the same physical controller, and that's a very effective and economical way of doing it. Then there are other approaches that will take a block storage system and put what, in effect, is a network-attached storage [NAS] controller or a NAS head in front of it. They'll package it as unified storage, even though it's two separate systems that have been put together. Both can be very effective, and both have strengths and weaknesses. Typically, the combined solution can be a little bit more economical, but the packaged solution may have opportunities to do some different caching, for example, of the data.

SearchStorage: What are the criteria for evaluating unified storage architecture?

Kerns: Ultimately, it's what you want to accomplish and what you're trying to do with that system. For the most part, you're combining the resource platform, if you will, for block and file, and then you're providing that information to users or your applications. Some people look at it as a way to centralize administration of the storage platform. Some systems have the capability of having a single administrative interface, while others may require two different interfaces.

SearchStorage: What's the difference between unified, converged and integrated storage systems?

Kerns: [The answer depends on] who you talk to. Some vendors try to run with a particular word and build a case and a particular identity around the name. unified storage has been relatively successful and fairly well identified, I think, in the user community. Converged storage is still a little misunderstood -- maybe misrepresented -- but converged is where you can get the server and the storage together on a single platform, and that's generally what it means, although not always the case depending on which vendor you talk to. That's the way most IT people understand it.

Integrated storage can mean a couple of different things. It can mean the same thing as converged or something like an appliance where you have a prepackaged offering that has the application and storage together.

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