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Unified: Choose Wisely

Linda Xu by Linda Xu on Jul 1, 2013

There’s a lot of noise out there about ways to increase performance and cost savings. But when you dig into it, there is usually little to quantify or substantiate the claims. It’s all typically anecdotal, with a little bit of hand waving. That’s why we want you to be able to ask the right questions. Questions related to increasing performance, capacity efficiency and cost savings (i.e., better economics).

Performance and Scalability

Performance consists of more than just IOPS, and scalability is about more than just capacity growth. When adding more capacity, does your performance adjust to handle the additional data? When you add another node in the cluster, does your performance grow 100% per node, or do you lose something in the process? Are you getting a symmetric active-active failover capability, or plain active-passive? Do you really have to buy another file server to address the maximum capacity? And how much usable capacity are you gaining anyway? You need to know that your storage solution will scale with you not only in capacity, but in performance to store and access the additional data that goes into those disks. And that you should go beyond the IOPS performance comparison, and start asking about throughput and simultaneous open connections and files.

Capacity Efficiency

Let’s face it, we all want flash memory. The more the better for performance right? The harsh reality is that flash disks and SSDs are much more expensive per GB than hard disks. So you need “flash-awareness” in your systems to achieve the full potential of flash. Real estate is the key. Since flash is expensive, the name of the game is to squeeze as much data as possible into that flash space. You’re thinking dedupe should work well here. And you’d be right. But what is sometimes missed is what you lose in order to make it work right. For example, when dedupe is turned on, will it not interfere with the file sharing workload? Can it run anytime and not have to be scheduled at off hours? Can you just set it and forget it without having to worry about management?

TCO / Cost Savings

IT managers are more business savvy than ever before. But it’s easy to see why hardware, software and maintenance costs are the only expenses considered. There is a bigger picture. As pointed out above, try to understand how capacity growth and performance are interrelated at scale. Is storage capacity used as efficiently as possible so as to defer additional storage purchases? What about power, cooling and space costs? Can the file server or NAS solution consolidate enough to reduce these significantly? Backup costs should be considered – especially the additional capacity and time window objectives. And server virtualization integration for VMs and VDI is critical for infrastructure. Can the solution help reduce costs for virtualized environments over time? It should. More than ever before, it’s about doing more with less, for less.

Sometimes it seems like a secret decoder ring is needed to understand what computer and storage vendors are saying. But by learning to ask the right questions, you’ll quickly be able to uncover the truth and make the best informed decisions!

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Linda Xu

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