Graduating Your Storage

  Lori and I’s youngest daughter graduated from High School this year, and her class chose one of the many good Vince Lombardi quotes for the theme of their graduation – “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” Those who know me well know that I’m not a huge football fan (don’t tell my friends here in Green Bay that… The stadium can hold roughly half the city’s population, and they aren’t real friendly to those who don’t join in the frenzy), but Vince Lombardi certainly had a lot of great quotes over the course of his career, and I am a fan of solid quotes. This is a good example of his ability to say things short and to the point.

This is the point where I say that I’m proud of our daughter. For a lot more than simply making it through school, and wish her the best of luck in that rollercoaster ride known as adult life.

About the same time as our daughter was graduating, Lori sent me a link to this Research And Markets report on High Performance Computing site Storage usage. I found it to be very interesting, just because HPC sites are generally on the larger end of storage environments, and are where the rubber really hits the road in terms of storage performance and access times. One thing that stood out was the large percentage of disk that is reported as DAS. While you know there’s a lot of disk sitting in servers underutilized, I would expect the age of virtualization to have used a larger chunk of that disk with local images and more swap space for the multiple OS instances.

Another thing of interest was that NAS and SAN are about evenly represented. Just a few years ago, that would not have been true at all. Fiber Channel has definitely lost some space to IP-based storage if they’re about even in HPC environment deployments. What’s good for the some of the most resource intensive environments on earth is good for most enterprises, and I suspect that NAS has eclipsed SAN in terms of shear storage space in the average enterprise (though that’s a conjecture on my part, not anything from the report).

And that brings us back to the Vince Lombardi Quote.

NAS disk space is growing. DAS disk space is still plentiful. The measure of the service your IT staff delivers will be what you do with what you have.

And in this case, what you have is DAS disk not being used and a growing number of NAS heads to manage all that NAS storage. What do you do with that?

Well, you do what makes the most sense. In this case, storage tiering comes to mind, but DAS isn’t generally considered a tier, right?

It is if you have file virtualization (also called directory virtualization) in place. Seriously. By placing all that spare DAS into the directory tree, it is available as a pool of resources to service storage needs – and by utilizing automated, rule-based tiering, what is stored there can be tightly controlled by tiering rules so that you are not taking over all of the available space on the DAS, and things are stored in the place that makes the most sense based upon modification and/or access times.

With tiering and file virtualization in place, you have a solution that can utilize all that DAS, and an automated system to move things to  the place that makes the most sense. While you’re at it, move the rest of the disk into the virtual directory, and you can run backups off the directory virtualization engine, rather than set them up for each machine. You can even create rules to copy data off to slow disk and back it up from there, if you like.

And with the direction things are headed, throw in an encrypting Cloud Storage Gateway like our ARX Cloud Extender, and you have a solution that utilizes your internal DAS and NAS both intelligently and to the maximum, and the gateway to Cloud storage for overflow, Tier N, or archival storage… depending upon how you’re using cloud storage.

Then you are doing the most with what you have – and setting up an infinitely expandable pool to cover for unforeseen growth.

All of the above makes your storage environment more rational, improves utilization in DAS (and in most cases NAS), retains your files with their names intact, and moves unstructured data to the storage that makes the most sense for it. There is very little not to like.

So check it out. We have ARX, other vendors offer their solutions – though ARX is the leader in this space, so I don’t feel pandering to say you’ll find us a better fit.

Published Jun 01, 2011
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