Data Storage – Five Reasons Why It’s the New Celebrity
by Esther Levine
Although initially not very exciting, storage is now a hot topic. Storage has evolved from its humble beginnings as Direct Attached Storage (DAS) when each application server had its own disks attached to the same box. This dedicated storage evolved towards external storage in two main directions – storage area networks (SANs) and network attached storage (NAS). NAS devices provide dedicated file sharing through a standard Ethernet connection. SAN provides block-level data storage, typically supporting large-scale data storage, retrieval and replication via Fibre Channel interconnection technology.
What are the recent changes that have disrupted this staid sector? According to Manish Goel, Senior VP and GM of Hewlett Packard Storage, in a recent conversation with Calvin Zito, the change is comparable to the transformation that occurred when spinning disks overtook tape 30 years back. Now, we are transitioning from spinning disks to non-volatile / flash memory. The tipping point has arrived as more than 50 percent of companies are now incorporating nonvolatile memory.
Below, we’ll explore five reasons why data storage is the new IT celebrity.
- All Flash Arrays
All-flash arrays containing multiple flash memory drives deliver very high I/O, providing faster data transfer rates. A sign of maturity in this arena is that since most of the major players such as HP, IBM and NetApp offer all-flash arrays, the smaller companies will be gobbled up. This is one indication that all-flash array is reaching maturity.
- 3D Stacking Technologies
Flash isn’t the only game in town. 3D stacking assembles 2D memory cells on top of each other, packing more capacity into smaller spaces. Since this arrangement reduces the interconnect length between the memory cells, performance is enhanced while electrical consumption is lowered. It will probably take more than a year for 3D stacking technologies to be mass produced, but once they do, the SSDs will be within the price range of bulk storage hard drives. This will likely mark the end of the line for spinning drives.
- 3D XPoint chips
Intel and Micron are developing non-viable 3D XPoint chips that can store data even without power. They are much faster than NAND flash memory chips, which are used primarily in mobile and can pack more data than the DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips which are used for PCs. However, it may take another year or two before these chips are fully in production.
- Software Defined Storage
Another noteworthy trend is toward software-defined storage (SDS). The software controls storage-related activities and decouples these tasks from the physical storage. SDS allocates and shares storage assets across all workloads, including virtualized and non-virtualized assets. Since SDS can incorporate commodity hardware, it can provide significant cost savings. When SDS is part of a hyper-converged solution that manages the storage, compute and network fabric, the application layer and the storage are closely intertwined. This type of solution provides highly efficient storage that can be deployed quickly and simplifies ongoing operations. These solutions are evolving towards composable infrastructure, where a single API and software intelligence centralize control of the compute, storage and network resources.
- Smarter Storage
Lastly, Tom Fenton, a virtualization and storage expert, notes another trend, which is smarter storage. As the number of files housed in storage arrays can be in the billions, tracking these files has become that much more difficult. Cutting edge storage solutions now often contain built-in analytics to enable better improved management and troubleshooting.
In short, data storage is undergoing tremendous transformation, and preferred models will continue to rapidly change in the years to come. The challenge for companies will be to evaluate whether their existing models are best for their current and future business needs.
Esther Levine is a marketing specialist at Stratoscale.