The rise of in-memory computing coupled with the availability of inexpensive Flash memory is turning the way data is processed upside down. As more processing of live data moves into memory, the role of the disk array in the enterprise changes. In fact, it becomes just as important to make sure there is enough Flash memory on the storage array to keep pace with the increased processing capabilities of the server.
As part of an effort to maintain that balance, IBM today unveiled the Storwize V3700, a storage array that combines up to 8GB of Flash memory on the controller with support for up to 120 SAS drives. According to Ed Walsh, vice president of marketing and strategy for the IBM Systems and Technology Group, the Storwize V3700 can be used in conjunction with IBM EasyTier software to move data between different tiers of storage. Longer term, the plan is to extend that functionality out to server-side storage assets as well to provide a federated approach to data management that spans both servers and network-attached storage.
Walsh says that via EasyTier IBM is applying analytics in real time to figure out what data should be placed where on various storage mediums. IT organizations can either define where certain data should reside at any given time, or they can allow EasyTier to automate that process based on the behavior of the application workloads, which Walsh says IBM refers to as “smarter storage.”
While the role of disk arrays may be changing, Walsh says that storage arrays are still the only place IT organizations can apply RAID principles to assure the integrity of data. That means that while more data is being processed in memory, IT organizations will need to rely on storage arrays for more than simply storing data at rest.
What’s unclear given the higher levels of automation being brought to bear is just how many terabytes of data the average administrator can now effectively manage. At the same time, that higher level of automation also reduces the dependencies that any IT organization would have on storage specialists, which reduces the total cost of enterprise IT by allowing IT generalists to more easily manage large amounts of storage distributed across many applications.
The end result is that not only is the management of storage getting more sophisticated, it is simultaneously becoming more feasible for small to medium businesses to manage a lot more of it. That’s a good thing because the amount of that data that needs to be managed is starting to increase exponentially.