Storage Clusters: Scalable, Available and Ready to Go

Arthur Cole

Scalability is the new black in the data center, which is why many organizations are turning toward clustered storage systems when the time comes to expand physical infrastructure. This is true even for smaller organizations, which need the flexibility that storage clusters provide without the massive, hyperscale capabilities that most leading systems tout.

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It might surprise some of you to learn, however, that one of the leading proponents of clustered storage is not a hardware vendor at all. Microsoft has been quietly gravitating toward the cluster model with the Windows Server 2012 system, gathering a number of small but crucial supporters for its Cluster-in-a-Box (CiB) program that seeks to provide a middle ground between single-node server architectures and full enterprise-level scale-out designs.

A company called DataON, for example, recently launched the DNS-9000 series appliance, a CiB-compatible storage enclosure that provides high-availability, dual-node clustering with up to 280 TB on a 70-bay, 4U enclosure. The system accommodates 3.5-inch SAS/SATA HDD or SSD storage and is designed to provide both high scalability and advanced failover without unduly expanding the physical infrastructure footprint. The company says it can reduce data center sprawl by 15 percent and more than halve the space requirement of existing HA clustering platforms. At the same time, the system can be supplemented with additional JBOD boxes to drive capacities up to 3 PB.


Meanwhile, Colorado’s X-IO Technologies has released the FSC 2200 CiB appliance that utilizes the company’s Intelligent Storage Element (ISE) portfolio to support mission-critical workloads. The system scales from 400 to 8,000 IOPS per TB, giving it broad flexibility for core enterprise applications such as OLTP, data warehousing and SQL Server database processing. And through Windows Storage Server 2012, the system supports the SMBv3, NFSv4.1 and iSCSI protocols for open client-side functionality.

At the same time, Echostreams Innovative Solutions has teamed up with LSI and Mellanox to devise a CiB platform for OEMs and system integrators. The package combines the LSI Synchro RAID adapter and 56 Gbps FDR InfiniBand with Echostream’s DuraStreams server platform to create 2U and 3U appliances that can be tailored to either branch or central office deployment. The system utilizes either single or dual Intel E5 server configurations and can be optimized for all-in-one Windows Server or Hyper-V architectures, with support for up to 16 3.5-inch hard disk drives plus four 2.5-inch SSDs.

And Quanta QCT is looking to leverage the CiB platform as a means to drive clustered storage solutions into the SMB market. The company recently released a Value SKU for the MESOS CB220 appliance that places two server nodes and a shared storage architecture in a 2U chassis. By foregoing an external JBOD attachment, the platform provides a high-density solution that shaves more than 20 percent off the power consumption of a traditional high-availability cluster. It also features the company’s Storage Spaces technology that provides a virtual disk layer to enable pooled storage among standard disk drives.

In this age of cloud storage, hybrid storage and all-solid-state arrays, high-availability storage clusters should fit nicely into the development plans of most enterprises. Storage services of all kinds are readily available on the cloud these days, but many organizations will no doubt continue to opt for the safety of keeping data in-house.

In these circumstances, it makes the most sense to deploy a highly scalable storage architecture that provides key features like redundancy and availability without the cost and complexity of a traditional SAN.



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