The Tracks of Our Storage Tiers

Michael Vizard

Although there is a lot of talk these days about storage unificationin the form of bringing together storage area networks (SANs) and network attached storage (NAS), the father of the Fibre Channel interface thinks there is a lot more discussion of the topic than actual unification happening.

That doesn't mean the storage world is perfect as it currently stands, says Joe Mathis, a research fellow at Virtual Instruments, which makes software that helps IT organizations understand actual SAN usage and performance.

Mathis, who led development on the Fibre Channel concept while working for IBM, says the real issue that most IT organizations are trying to grapple with when it comes to SANs is figuring out how to create meaningful tiers of data. The core problem, he notes, is that when SANs are left essentially unmanaged, you wind up with very expensive disk storage being used to store all kinds of data. IT organizations need to start putting a real value on that information and then store that data in the most appropriate storage array based on the actual value of the data.

Despite all the buzz surrounding iSCSI in the storage world, Mathis says he sees only marginal deployment of iSCSI SANs. Instead, most customers he visits are moving up the Fibre Channel performance curve as the technology gets faster and the sheer amount of data that needs to be managed continues to grow.

And while most of the storage focus these days is on unstructured data, Mathis notes that structured data also continues to grow rapidly as the size and scope of enterprise applications from companies such as SAP and Oracle continue to grow. But as Mathis notes, not all the data in those applications is of equal value.

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