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New storage technologies to deal with the data deluge

Robert L. Scheier | March 26, 2013
Enterprise storage demands are reaching a critical point, and vendors are scrambling to develop new products to deal with the data deluge. We look at how these technologies will help manage the major pain points for storage administrators.

Sean Kinney, director of product marketing at HP Storage, predicted the rise of unified deduplication platforms that organizations can use for all of their applications and storage. That, he says, will reduce licensing, training and management costs as well as the amount of storage an organization must buy.

Performance Meets Speed

Some users aren't upgrading their storage systems solely because they need help managing large volumes of data; they're also driven by the need to access data quickly.

Case Western Reserve University is moving 100TB of research file data from an EMC Celerra NS480 to a Panasas ActiveStor 8 for rapid analysis, and another 65TB of structured administrative data to a Nexsan NST 5310. Besides higher performance, users wanted to create single name spaces as big as 600TB -- far above the 64TB limit of both EMC and NetApp offerings, says Brian Christian, design senior technical lead at the school.

"Our first, small, high-performance cluster" used a traditional NAS device acting as Network File Server, "and we overloaded it. After talking with our peers, we saw that to grow as we needed, we needed a parallel NAS. That's when we acquired Panasas," says Christian.

To boost performance, many customers are using flash memory within servers, as well as solid-state drives in storage arrays, to cache speed-sensitive data before writing it to slower, but less expensive and higher-capacity hard drives.

Three years ago, slowing application performance and increasing upgrade costs spurred David Abbott, manager of IT infrastructure engineering at TripPak Services and ACS Advertising, both Xerox companies, to look for new platforms that could handle his expected 10TB of new storage per year "without management having a heart attack" over cost.

Golden Oldies

To the Rescue: Old, Slow Disk and Tape

Even as researchers fiddle with material science and software developers fine-tune clustered file systems, two old standbys -- slow, cheap, spinning disk and even older tape drives -- are playing a crucial role in managing the storage flood.

For customers using CleverSafe storage appliances, for example, "5,400 rpm and 7,200 rpm drives are the way to go" to achieve the lowest cost per gigabyte in dollars, power, cooling and space, says Chris Gladwin, Cleversafe's president and CEO. And Seagate senior vice president Mark Re points out that, not only would it be costly to replace every hard drive with flash, but it would also be impossible to manufacture that much flash.

Tape is even slower and less expensive than disk, and it's often derided as clumsy, hard to use and prone to failure. Nonetheless, "tape enjoys a significant space efficiency advantage over disk storage by virtue of its ability to pack more recording surface area into a given physical volume," according to a blog post by Eric Slack, an analyst for Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm based in Fort Worth, Texas.


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