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Storage is Interesting…

A fellow blogger has a habit of referring to storage as snorage and I suspect that is the attitude of many. What’s so interesting about storage, it’s just that place that you keep your stuff? And many years ago as an entry level systems programmer; there were two teams that I was never going to join…one being the test team and the other being the storage team, because they were boring. Recently I have run both a test team and a storage team and enjoyed the experience immensely.

So why do I keep doing storage? Well, firstly I have little choice but to stick to infrastructure; I’m a pretty lousy programmer and it seems that I can do less damage in infrastructure. If you ever received more cheque-books in the post from a certain retail bank, I can only apologise.

But storage is cool; firstly it’s BIG and EXPENSIVE; who doesn’t like raising orders for millions? It is also so much more than that place where you store your stuff; you have to get it back for starters. I think that people are beginning to realise that storage might be a little more complex than first thought; a few years ago , the average home user only really worried about how much disk that they had but the introduction of SSDs into the consumer market has hammered home how the type of storage matters and the impact it can have on the user experience.

Spinning rust platters keep getting bigger but for many, this just means that the amount of free-disk keeps increasing, the increase in speed is what people really want. Instant changes things.

So even in the consumer market; storage is taking on a multi-dimensional personality; it scales both in capacity but also in speed. In the Enterprise; things are more interesting.

Capacity is obvious; how much space do you need? Performance? Well, performance is more complex and has more facets than most realise. Are you interested in IOPs? Are you interested in throughput? Are you interested in aggregate throughput or single stream? Are you dealing with large or small files? Large or small blocks? Random or sequential?

Now for 80% of use-cases; you can probably get away with taking a balanced approach and just allocating storage from a general purpose pool. But 20% of your applications are going to need something different and that is where it gets interesting.

Most of the time when I have conversations with application teams or vendors; when I ask the question as to what type of storage that they require, the answer comes back is generally fast. There then follows a conversation as to what fast means and whether the budget meets their desire to be fast.

If we move to ‘Software Defined Storage’, this could be a lot more complex than people think. Application developers may well have to really understand how their applications store data and how they interact with the infrastructure that they live on. If you pick the wrong pool,  your application performance could drop through the floor or the wrong availability level, you experience a massive outage.

So if you thought storage was snorage; most developers and people still do, you might want to start taking an interest. If infrastructure becomes code; I may need to get better a coding but some of you are going to have to get better at infrastructure. Move beyond fast and large and understand the subtleties; it is interesting…I promise you!

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