A Brief History of Data Management
Since the birth of the PC revolution, data management has been an intrinsic part of the computing experience. I doubt there is any one of us who hasn’t lost an important file at home for lack of a responsible backup strategy. But in the workplace, things moved in a different direction. Our PCs were merged into workgroups and large networks, so the brunt of our data wasn’t even saved locally anymore. PC’s became glorified front-ends for the app servers and network storage where our labor now lived. What was once “local storage” became a shared network resource that was allocated and managed by IT people. But in that process… as our data got further away from our desks… it introduced new performance issues. Groups of people moving ever-increasing amounts of data across the same network caused bottlenecks, and as a result, apps began to get sluggish and latency became part of the everyday experience. Time to call those IT people!
Two Sides of Storage: Capacity and Performance
It’s safe to say that our incessant need for additional storage isn’t going to go away anytime soon. If you are a junior IT person responsible for keeping the masses happy in a small company, your first response to a storage shortage is probably something quick and financially painless. Often, a small-but-growing company will add a NAS device or a JBOD to placate employees’ requests for additional space. Both devices offer an inexpensive way to expand storage capacity, but what about storage performance? Well, the short answer is, “NAS and JBODs aren’t really designed for performance.” That is to say, they are not designed to handle the performance needs of a mid-sized company -- where numerous high-speed file transfers involving terabytes of data are routinely performed, and virtualization is often required. And adding more of them to increase capacity is not going to help things! Performance will continuously suffer as more users generate more network traffic.
Storage Capacity Can Be Deceiving
If you are an IT person involved in storage purchases, and you keep shopping on the basis of “more terabytes”, you are just throwing good money after bad. Instead, think about smarter storage. For instance, consider the way each storage system performs backups and question how much free space that requires. Snapshot-based backups consume 30% of available capacity so how much actual storage are you really buying? A modern SAN with the same capacity will be more expensive, but it can offer failsafe backup options, like BackDating, that leave you with much better recovery options and significantly more free space.
Many IT people rule out the idea of a SAN because it seems absurdly expensive compared to NAS-type solutions with comparable capacities. That is kind of like deciding not to buy a Lamborghini because of the low gas mileage. You need to look at everything else that goes into it. An investment into a modern SAN would certainly solve your immediate storage capacity issues and performance issues, and it would likely introduce a whole new menu of capabilities that secure your business from future data losses. It is pretty hard to put a price on that.
Performance Powered by Software
Many people think that “fast storage” must be all about superior hardware, but the HDDs and SSDs used by all storage vendors are basically the same. The primary thing that differentiates a modern SAN is its operating system. This is software that controls that hardware, manages every bit of I/O, streamlines restoration processes, and performs many advanced capabilities. This investment into software accounts for the cost discrepancy between a SAN and its basic-storage underlings. NAS and JBOD systems possess only rudimentary software to enable basic operations, but a modern SAN is a centralized high-performance data network that is intended to allow users to easily perform advanced data management operations in a short amount of time. All of that capability comes from advanced software.
Backwards Compatibility… The Death Knell of Innovation
Perhaps you have noticed the recurring and deliberate use of the phrase “modern SAN” in this article. The reason for this distinction is because many of the SAN systems which are still sold by very large and reputable vendors rely on decades-old technology. It is not out of the question to still find a 386 processor still being used simply because that processor is adequate to run the SAN’s firmware -- which doesn’t say much for the firmware either. Insomuch as hardware vendors will use the least expensive CPU that will run their firmware, you can bet that a “modern SAN” will require the capabilities of modern processors, like the Intel® Sandy Bridge generation, in order to perform operations like de-duplication and data compression on the fly. But why would a storage vendor opt not to modernize their own product line?
A primary reason many reputable storage vendors end up not being able to compete in their own industry is because they get trapped catering to their customer base, which usually insists that every new product be compatible with their existing systems. This environment makes innovation essentially impossible, because true innovation usually requires cutting ties with the past. Imagine if Microsoft decided to keep all of their software products compatible with Windows 3.1? Very simply… they wouldn’t be around because they wouldn’t be able to compete in the software market. The reason they are very much still around is because with each advancement in hardware components (CPUs, RAM, video cards, etc.) they innovate their software apps to take advantage of it and deliver a better user experience. Again… it comes back to the word “modern”. A modern storage vendor, like Reduxio™, will have products that take advantage of the newest technologies and as a result will be able to offer new capabilities that others simply cannot.
Doing Your Homework is Essential
Making the move from a stopgap storage solution to a modern SAN is a major step, but one that is guaranteed to return big dividends – both in the way your business runs, and the way it recovers from inevitable data-loss events. You cannot shop by price tags alone, nor by capacity. You will find storage solutions ranging from several thousand dollars to over a million dollars, so it is very important to understand your present needs as well as your future expectations to find the right solution for you. Recent innovations in the industry have drastically changed the way that storage is done, so be prepared to do some research, and be prepared to be surprised.
To learn about the recent changes in storage technology, contact the storage professionals at Core Evolution Group. If you are planning a storage upgrade or just want to learn how new technologies may change the way you think about what is possible, then please download the eBook titled The Essentials when Upgrading a Storage Solution.