The enterprise data environment is usually a diverse collection of technologies, architectures, hardware, software and more vendor solutions than you can count. And this is just within the data center. Add the cloud, mobile infrastructure and emerging Big Data/IoT systems and what once was a complex but manageable setting has become a seemingly intractable problem.
But for every problem, there is a solution, and with every challenge lies an opportunity. So it’s no surprise that the IT industry is already hard at work devising solutions for the task of managing disparate data ecosystems as a unified entity.
A case in point is the need to integrate Flash storage into legacy infrastructure. Even the all-Flash arrays from Solid Fire and others must somehow gel with disk and even tape storage or risk the establishment of discrete silos of storage performance. Solid Fire addresses this through the PowerShell scriptable management stack in Microsoft Windows. The company has released its own set of PowerShell tools that oversee cluster configuration management, snapshots and cloning, as well as management of accounts, volumes and access groups, plus reporting and usage, all through REST-based APIs known as “commandlets” (cmdlets).
Meanwhile, Nimble Storage has recently added a number of enterprise-class features to its Adaptive Flash platform to enhance its interaction with legacy storage systems. In addition to new software-based encryption and a REST API-based extensibility framework, users have the ability to enable all-Flash services for high-speed functions, along with an automated Flash level for mainstream apps and disk-only service for low-cost/low-speed purposes, all maintained within a single, unified storage environment. In this way, storage services are tailored to the needs of the application, rather than isolating the app within a dedicated set of resources. This single-architecture approach also reduces cost and complexity within the overall storage pool.
Too often, however, an all-Flash array comes with its own management stack, but not the integration tools needed to incorporate it into the existing storage environment. This is where companies like FalconStor are hoping to make a difference, by ensuring that Flash, hybrid and disk solutions will not evolve into their own silos. This is particularly troublesome as organizations start to deploy software-defined storage and networking solutions, which depend largely on seamless integration between resources in order to affect a dynamically configurable data solution. In this regard, the company is focusing on data migration that overrides or bypasses thin-provisioning and data-optimization functions that exist within many arrays.
Organizations also need to keep an eye on Flash’s role in emerging infrastructure, not just legacy environments, says Wikibon analyst Stuart Miniman. He says the new data environment is likely to consist of Flash-based, hyperconverged Server/SAN architectures with liberal doses of OpenStack and container technologies, so getting these three elements to work together seamlessly will be paramount in the years to come. Examples of this trend can be found at Google, Facebook and other hyperscale giants who do not treat Flash as a separate entity that needs to be integrated, but a built-in component of a unified, converged and highly scalable data ecosystem.
Clearly, the average enterprise is not ready to deploy Flash in this manner, so integration will continue to be a major facet of the workaday data center. But the industry as a whole has been clear in its desire to undo all of the silo-based architectures that were built up over the past few decades to enable broad resource pooling and/or finite segmentation as needed.
A comprehensive management stack that oversees all forms of storage and can place data on the appropriate tier regardless of media type, manufacturer or systems architecture will be crucial to the fulfilment of that goal.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.