Grid Storage on the Rise

Arthur Cole

The concept of grid storage is gaining more followers as environmental concerns, backup and recovery requirements and the plain-old drive to cut costs continue to push the data center in new directions.


IBM is making a big play for the technology, says Byte and Switch, dropping a rumored $350 million for Israeli company XIV, which specializes in the kinds of clustered storage arrays that can be used for grid platforms. A grid architecture typically uses off-the-shelf storage components coupled with a high-speed networking fabric that allows users to scale up massive amounts of memory relatively quickly.


XIV's main product is the NEXTRA architecture, which uses Intel Linux servers and Fibre Channel or iSCSI SANs connecting perhaps thousands of direct-attached SATA drives. Although the company has kept its activities relatively quiet since its launch two years ago, some customers are said to have scaled up to 4 petabytes or more.


Grid storage starts to get really interesting when it's combined with open source software over a hosted network, according to this article in E-Commerce Times. Costs can drop as low as 15 to 20 cents per gigabyte, compared to the $15 to $25 per GB for in-house hardware and software. Still, security and reliability are likely to be major concerns for most hosted solutions.


But even in-house grids are likely to suffer from bottlenecks and other networking snafus as they are scaled into the tera- and petabyte realms. NEC's Dr. Christian Toelg says a major challenge will be maintaining data deduplication efforts as storage requirements bump up against a set number of controllers and a centralized file system. NEC claims its Hydrastor system has a fix by separating performance and capacity into different intelligent nodes.


Network computing used to be a fairly straightforward endeavor. If more processing power or storage was needed, it was a simple matter of plugging in new hardware. But with both capital and operating costs on the upswing, the easy solution is no longer the best solution. Grid storage may be the way to continue to meet expanding needs without breaking the bank.

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