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Understanding Modern Data Storage- Part 1

Understanding Modern Data Storage- Part 1

March 07, 2016
Posted by: Douglas Arcidino

In the last 10 years or so, storage has become the primary concern for organizations as they upgrade their data centers or try to implement new systems and applications. CPU and memory resources have become so condensed that almost every server has several times the resources needed out of the box. Almost every client of mine has been through at least two full refresh cycles in that time and, in each cycle they have consumed their storage capacity 3-5 times faster than they expected and/or did not have as much storage performance as they needed to support the workload over the five-year life cycle.

            This blog post will be the first in a series around storage technologies. In this post we will look at the challenges facing organizations and also a brief look at the technologies available to meet the needs of businesses.

            The challenges faced by businesses as it relates to storage are numerous but here are the top issues.

  • Files are getting larger
  • Applications are getting more complex in their storage footprint
  • Users are saving multiple copies of the same files
  • More and more applications rely on databases for their function
  • Virtualized application workloads are causing server sprawl


Three of those items are technology issues and two are business issues. It’s critical for a business to be able to respond to the needs of the users and applications because if it takes an extra five seconds for every task a user does each day that quickly outpaces the cost of fixing the root cause.

So what are the current storage technologies in the market? We still have Direct Attached Storage (DAS), Network Attached Storage(NAS) and Storage Area Networks(SAN) but in the last few years a merging of the all three has begun and it brings us to a new word, Hyper-convergence. Hyper-converged systems are available from every major manufacturer and it has even allowed new companies to come into the market.

What is a hyper-converged system? Essentially it is a single device that has the compute resources, storage and networking rolled into one box and shares all of its’ resources with the other systems to create a highly available hardware cluster with less cost. Typically, they leverage blade style servers with a few direct attached disks and then a software layer shares the local disks with the partner nodes over a high-speed network.

DAS is still in use for applications that aren’t virtualized and currently provides 12Gbps connectivity. NAS solutions are in place for backup and disaster recovery solutions and now includes up to 10Gbps networking. SAN storage is still the main player shared workloads. With 16Gbps fibre-channel connectivity and the continued reduction in cost, this is still the standard.

What about the disks inside the box? Drive technology has continued to evolve as well. 10,000 RPM SAS hard drives are available in over 1TB capacity now.

7200 RPM Near-Lines SAS is available in 4TB capacity and SAS Solid State Drives have brought reliability and standards to the enterprise SSD market. Enterprise SSDs also allow online storage to leverage things like deduplication and compression which were only suitable for archive and backup storage before due to the additional time it takes to access a compressed or deduplicated file. This allows more data to be stored on fewer SSDs while keeping the performance. It’s not uncommon to see 3:1 through 8:1 dedupe and compression ratios.

Another technology making its’ way into every storage system is Auto-Tiering of data. Moving hot data or the data being accessed the most to faster storage while moving the less active data to the slower tiers. This enables businesses to reduce the overall cost of the storage system while enabling flexibility of the storage system.

I hope this introduction has been helpful and if your business would like an evaluation of your storage system please contact Endurance IT Services for a consultation.


By Douglas Arcidino

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