Random Access

5 Options for Getting (Re)Started with Storage

The recent explosion of the storage market has provided a huge amount of choice for your enterprise. Here are five options that are vying to be your data storage solution.

Frankly, for a number of years, storage was an incredibly boring market. Once the industry reached the 15K RPM mark and iSCSI started making waves, things slowed down for a while. Today, nothing could be further from the truth. The range of options for storage solutions is staggering.

The sheer variety of storage options on the market today can make it a confusing space to navigate. Even the lines between storage and the rest of the data center environment are blurring as new kinds of hardware make their way to market. The list below outlines what I see as five general options that organizations have when it comes to acquiring storage in 2013.

1) Traditional hard disk-based arrays. Sometimes, the tried-and-true known quantity is exactly what's needed. Hard disks are proven technology that many organizations find comfortable. On the downside, hard drives are mechanical devices that fail and, while they support extreme capacity needs, their ability to rise to high levels of performance is quite low. Today, many organizations are deploying workloads that outstrip the reasonable ability for hard drives to keep up. The cost per GB is low, but the cost per IOPS is high with traditional storage.

2) All flash storage arrays. In recent years, the storage market has seen the quick emergence of arrays outfitted with 100 percent solid state storage. These products provide massive performance and low latency, but with the tradeoff being low capacity. Solid state disks still remain orders of magnitude more expensive than hard disks. Many array solutions include powerful deduplication and other data reduction features that can help to address the capacity question while still providing incredible performance for workloads that need it, such as VDI and big data. Here, the cost per IOPS is low, but the cost per GB is high.

3) Hybrid storage arrays. Another storage niche that has emerged in recent years is the hybrid space. These solutions ride the line between traditional hard disks and flash storage by using both kinds of devices. Hybrid storage devices are capable of providing organizations with the tremendous capacity benefits of hard disks while accelerating the performance of that medium through the strategic use of solid state disks. Hybrid storage arrays provide a balanced cost per GB and cost per IOPS and can boost performance in needy workloads, such as VDI.

4) Server-side flash cards. Part of the storage market that's seen a lot of progress in recent years is the server-side flash market. These devices are generally PCI-e cards loaded up with gigabytes to terabytes of flash storage. Server-side flash hardware can be used as a megacache to speed up an external array, or it can be used as primary storage for applications that require the highest levels of performance.

5) Hyperconverged infrastructure. While this isn't necessarily a pure storage play, hyperconverged infrastructure has the potential to replace more than just storage in an existing data center environment. These devices take a "data center in a box" approach to infrastructure. They include storage, compute, RAM and the hypervisor layer and enable organizations to simply add additional building blocks as needs grow. The primary downside in these plays has been their "one-size-fits-all" approach, but as time goes on, we're seeing the emergence of more building blocks that enable organizations to more easily add resources in a more granular way. These kinds of devices can bring significant ease of use to the IT environment and are often considered for general virtualization projects, including virtual desktop environments.

For companies looking at new storage options, today's market is an exciting one that provides opportunities across the cost and performance spectrum while, at the same time, providing opportunities for companies to rethink their environment altogether.

About the Author

Scott D. Lowe is the founder and managing consultant of The 1610 Group, a strategic and tactical IT consulting firm based in the Midwest. Scott has been in the IT field for close to 20 years and spent 10 of those years in filling the CIO role for various organizations. He's also either authored or co-authored four books and is the creator of 10 video training courses for TrainSignal.


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