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The Future of Modular Storage

by Hu Yoshida on Jul 28, 2008

Rick Villars of IDC believes that the predominant storage system in the future will be modular, two controller, storage systems. While modular storage will continue to be the storage of choice for the midrange market, it will have an expanding presence in the enterprise market as “role based” storage systems. This is storage that meets a particular role, such as NAS, VTL, Archive, or as a back end tier to a storage virtualization controller. While modular storage systems do not have the high availability of large enterprise storage systems that have 32 to 128 controllers clustered around a global cache, that deficiency can be masked though virtualization behind an enterprise storage virtualization system.

Since an enterprise storage virtualization controller can provide thousands of virtual ports for connectivity, large front end cache capacity for enhanced performance, thin provisioning for increased utilization, and non-disruptive, copy, move, and replicate for high availability and business continuity, the back end storage can be designed for low cost, modular capacity. Rick also believes that enterprises will be refreshing this modular storage on an accelerated 18 month cycle to take advantage of the price erosion of capacity which will continue to be 30% per year. Virtualization will make it easy to swap out or refresh storage modules without disruption to the application and without the need to swap out the entire storage farm. The days when data centers replaced their storage farms on 3 years or 5 year cycles, buying future capacity at today’s price, are over.

With storage virtualization and dynamic provisioning (thin provisioning) it is now possible to provision smaller increments of storage dynamically. Storage virtualization alone or thin provisioning alone will not be able to provide this capability. Thin provisioning enables you to share a pool of storage across multiple applications as though it were a liquid pool of capacity. Storage virtualization enables the extension of this pool of storage across multiple heterogeneous storage systems, adding modular storage systems as required.

An intelligent storage virtualization controller can provide a platform for current and future, enterprise, storage services, which can be applied to lower cost modular storage systems. This separation of intelligence from commodity capacity will enable IT to provide the right mix of, cost effective, storage services to meet business needs.  

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