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Unified storage systems offer cost savings and management advantages

A handful of recent unified storage systems offerings have grabbed the attention of industry experts and data storage managers who believe that a single foundation for managing block, file and object data is especially appealing as virtual server environments and the cloud force storage pros to look for consolidation and standardization wherever possible.

"By only having to buy a single storage system, there are capital savings involved," said Ben Woo, managing director at Neuralytix Inc., a New York City-based strategy consultancy specializing in the information industry. "When managing one system rather than two, there are operational savings to be had. Ultimately, the simplicity of having everything in a single unit makes sense for many businesses."

In this video whiteboard presentation, Woo outlines the key architectural points and benefits of unified storage systems.

"On the SAN side, you should think about block protocols that go down the wire -- ones and zeroes,” he said. “On the NAS side, you should think about files. Typically, they're a group of blocks, which is represented in a Word or Excel document."

For storage administrators, unified storage holds the appeal of cutting workloads -- sometimes by half, Woo said. For major storage vendors, approaches to unified storage systems vary. "What you'll see with unified storage is that IT vendors come at this in two different ways," he noted.

You have the integrated approach, where a single unified storage system will have both the SAN component and the NAS component together under one operating system. Alternatively, they may consider a more modular approach in which there's a NAS gateway or a NAS "head" that front ends a traditional SAN storage system.

The latter is what Woo calls a modular approach to unified storage systems.

"On the integrated side, NetApp is a prime example of this particular approach. However, from a modular perspective, we see companies like EMC, HP, IBM, Dell and Oracle," he noted.

For more on unified storage, please view Woo's whiteboard presentation.

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