Storage Becoming More 'Application Aware'


More and more storage vendors are turning toward so-called "application-aware" technology in the hopes that it will give them an edge in increasingly complex virtual environments.


Application awareness implies an intelligent storage system built to recognize the particular demands and usage patterns of targeted applications. The idea is to improve on capacity and disk utilization by anticipating storage requirements ahead of time.


In the past week, both HP and EMC issued application-aware systems for Oracle products. HP came out with the StorageWorks All-in-One (AiO) system geared toward Oracle Real Application Clusters on Linux. The move is seen as a bid to boost HP's presence in medium and small businesses in that it brings NAS and SAN shared storage functionality to Oracle clusters within the BladeSystem c3000 enclosure.


EMC is looking to improve Oracle's relationship with storage through flash technology. The company has developed a Symmetrix DMX-4 storage system for use with Oracle Database Applications, specifically the 11g and RAC 11g environments. EMC claims it can improve storage response times 30-fold, thanks to the faster I/O performance of flash drives, and can either replace or consolidate multiple Fibre Channel drives. The system also provides a new Tier 0 storage level for improved information lifecycle management.


Also catering to the Oracle base is Pillar Data Systems, which has expanded its Axiom system with a new set of application-aware profiles for the 10g and 11g databases, as well as the Oracle VM and Unbreakable Linux programs. Among the chief benefits are improved database partitioning, increased capacity through wider striping, faster recovery using a pooled RAID 10 level, increased scalability and guaranteed 80 percent utilization.


Although application-aware technology is an improvement over traditional storage, it won't solve all of your storage problems. As analyst Mark Peters explains to internetnews.com, it does not prioritize critical data, just data from a specific application. So if mission-critical data is vying for attention with a low priority Oracle batch, Oracle is likely to win out.


That sounds like a reasonable fix for future generations. In the meantime, a more storage environment tailored to your heaviest application loads should help improve network responsiveness quite a bit.