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Such Fun…

With EMC allegedly putting the VMAX into the capacity tier and suggesting that performance cannot be met by the traditional SAN; are we finally beginning to look at the death of the storage array?

The storage array as a shared monolithic device came about almost directly as the result of distributed computing; the necessity for a one-to-many device was not really there when the data-centre was dominated by the mainframe. And yet as computing has become ever more distributed; the storage array has begun to struggle more and more to keep up.

Magnetic spinning platters of rust have hardly increased in speed in a decade or more; their capacity has got ever bigger tho’; storage arrays have got denser and denser from a capacity point of view, yet real-world performance has just not kept pace. More and more cache has helped to hide some of this; SSDs have helped but to what degree?

It also has not helped that the plumbing for most SANs is Fibre-channel; esoteric, expensive and ornery, the image of the storage array is not good.

Throw in the increased compute power and the ever incessant demands for more data processing, coupled with an attitude to data-hoarding at a corporate scale which would make even the most OCD amongst of us look relatively normal.

And add the potential for storage-arrays to become less reliable and more vulnerable to real data-loss as RAID becomes less and less of an viable data-protection methodology at scale.

Cost and complexity with a sense of unease about the future means that storage must change. So what are we seeing?

A rebirth in DAS? Or perhaps simply a new iteration of DAS?

From Pernix to ScaleIO to clustered-filesystems such as GPFS; the heart of the new DAS is Shared-Nothing-Clusters. ex-Fusion-IO’s David Flynn appears to be doing something to pool storage attached to servers; you can bet that there will be a Flash part to all this.

We are going to have a multitude of products; interoperability issues like never before, implementation and management headaches…do you implement one of these products or many? What happens if you have to move data around between these various implementations? Will they present as a file-system today? Are they looking to replace current file-systems; I know many sys-admins who will cry if you try to take VxFS away from them.

What does data protection look like? I must say that the XIV data-protection methods which were scorned by many (me included) look very prescient at the moment (still no software XIV tho’? What gives IBM…).

And then there is application specific nature of much of this storage; so many start-ups are focused on VMware and providing storage in clever ways to vSphere…when VMware’s storage roadmap looks so rich and so aimed taking that market, is this wise?

The noise and clamour from the small and often quite frankly under-funded start-ups is becoming deafening…and I’ve yet to see a compelling product which I’d back my business on. The whole thing feels very much like the early days of the storage-array; it’s kind of fun really.


  1. Martin

    I think XIV’s protection method was scorned so much because it wasn’t well explained. At the basic level, it seemed obvious that a failure in 2 disks could result in data loss. However data distribution means it isn’t that simple. Also, the amount of data loss isn’t obvious; if you lose only 1% of a LUN, is the LUN lost in its entirety? In many cases the answer is yes, but initially XIV was slated by IBM as a NAS/file platform where individual files could be recovered. As ever, with storage hardware, nothing is as simple as it seems.

  2. There are many questions yet to be answered by IBM about the XIV architecture….but it is interesting that we are seeing more XIV-like architectures beginning to appear. It may be that IBM were onto something but like many first-movers, they have struggled to explain and sell the concept..or perhaps they were just being IBM!

  3. […] of what’s really going on over at his blog, while Martin Glassborow also did a good piece on his blog from a slightly different […]

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