Hybrid Storage on the Rise

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Five SSD Predictions for 2012

The real impact of solid-state drives will be felt the second half of this year.

Too many technology experts view ongoing developments as a zero-sum game. New technology replaces old. Systems and infrastructure keep getting better and better.

While this may make for compelling reading, the reality is quite different. New technology tends not to replace so much as accommodate the old. And even in circumstances when the old is finally phased out, there is usually a long period of co-existence, a tutoring if you will as machines, and the people who run them, figure out their rightful place in the environment.

This process is playing out in storage right now. Solid-state technology was heralded as the new reality just a few short years ago, and expected disruptions in hard disk manufacturing were supposed to accelerate its exit from the enterprise. So it probably comes as a surprise to some that HDDs aren't giving way to SSDs as much as they are to hybrid environments.

With hybrids, it seems, you get the best of both worlds: low-cost bulk storage coupled with high-speed cache or Tier 0 storage for the applications and services that need it. Startups like Tegile Systems are looking at hybrid arrays as a means to make dedupe and compression more efficient and effective for applications like databases, file-sharing and virtualization. The company's Zebi array provides application-based provisioning in Fibre Channel or iSCSI SANs, with a goal of boosting performance five-fold while cutting capacity requirements some 75 percent.

At the same time, Nexsan has released the new NST5000 featuring the company's FASTier acceleration engine that uses solid-state memory to support fault-tolerant performance of the system's SAS and SATA hard drives. The system provides file or block access from a single drive head, with capacity that scales to more than a petabyte.

Storage arrays aren't the only systems going the hybrid route. Teradata recently released the Active Enterprise Data Warehouse Platform 6690, which combines SSDs and HDDs as part of a virtual storage tier designed for self-management of hot and cold data that more closely matches the dynamic environments in virtual and cloud environments. By more closely matching data sets with the appropriate storage tier, the system aims for faster and more accurate analytics.

Enabling technologies are also laying the groundwork for more advanced hybrid environments. LSI Corp.'s new MegaRAID SATA + SAS controller supports the company's Fast Path software that boosts I/O performance in hybrid systems providing up to 465,000 random IOPS. It also supports the CacheCade Pro 2.0 system that improves the exchange of frequently accessed data from hard disk to SSD tiers.

High speed and high performance are certainly desirable traits in any storage infrastructure, but so are flexibility and low costs. SSDs are impressive, but it will be quite a while before they can satisfy all storage needs, if ever.

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