Servers with Extra Storage, Hold the Networking

Arthur Cole

Enterprise servers with integrated storage are not exactly a new phenomenon. But judging by both the amount of storage that is going into the latest models and the advanced features accompanying them, it makes me wonder if external storage's days are numbered.

I've speculated in the past whether the rise of on-server SSDs could cause some enterprises to consider scrapping their storage farms and the complicated network infrastructures needed to support them in favor of server-based storage. While that approach would probably lead to a raft of networking and management issues on its own, there is certainly the possibility that rising capacities on the server can be used for more than simple caching and application purposes.

Some of the newest devices, in fact, are starting to rival mid-level storage systems even without SSDs. Stratus Technologies, for example, just released the ftServer 6300, a two-socket machine that provides up to 8 TB using 2.5-inch SAS drives. And HP's MediaSmart Server can deliver up to 7 TB of storage -- and that's intended as a consumer product.

Then you have a new generation of OEM solutions designed to boost the storage capabilities of standard motherboards. Dot Hill Systems just came out with a new version of the RAIDCore software that will allow OEMs to add high-end virtual RAID features without the need for a dedicated hardware accelerator. The system provides for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 and 50, and can also be tailored to SAS/SATA chipsets that employ built-in PCIe. Expect to see the system on volume low-end servers before too long.

Add to this the new storage management capabilities of Intel's new Jasper Forest chip, and it looks like we're beginning to see full-blown storage capabilities in smaller and smaller packages. The chip can configure RAID 5 or 6 storage and provides such management tools as data deduplication, snapshots and storage virtualization.

Now clearly, on-server storage is not about to replace the massive storage farms at the largest enterprises. But smaller and medium-sized businesses might be tempted to forgo a storage network if their needs can be met with a server-based hard disk or solid-state system. And if requirements do exceed capacities at some point, there is always the cloud to handle any excess.

Sound crazy? Yeah, probably a little, but it certainly is possible. And as more and more enterprises look to cut both the cost and the complexity of their data centers, the question is whether the possible can become probable.

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