Storage Consolidation for the Masses


Unified storage, storage consolidation, whatever you want to call it, is certainly on the radar these days as enterprises look to cut costs any way they can.

And while at one time the prospect of joining disparate SAN and NAS, block and file, data and application, elements under one fabric was daunting even for the loftiest of organizations, a new generation of systems promises to bring the complexity of the problem down to where even SMBs can handle it.

The trend is a timely one considering more and more IT professionals are looking to the storage side of the house for savings now that server consolidation is firmly under way. HP reports that more than 56 percent of you have placed storage consolidation in the top-priority list for the coming year -- part of an overall storage-efficiency movement that also includes technologies like data deduplication, drive power management and thin provisioning.

The expected demand for advanced storage solutions is drawing new players into the enterprise arena. Netgear, for one, is targeting low-cost storage unification as a means to expand beyond the SOHO networking market. Its ReadyNAS 3200 is a NAS/unified storage system that holds up to 12 1TB drives for less than $5,000, with plans to add 2 TB drives coming soon. The system provides NAS or iSCSI SAN connectivity using the Linux-based ReadyNAS RAIDiator operating system with support for the Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) and the OS X Time Machine function, along with standard Windows, Unix, Linux and Mac file services.

HP is continuing its focus on small organizations with the StorageWorks X1000 and X3000 network storage systems with an eye toward uniting file and application storage. Both systems offer iSCSI and file serving with an automated storage manager to simplify setup and configuration. They also provide a file deduplication module from Sepaton, which improves storage capacity by about a third. HP has also launched a new virtualization package for small companies aimed at turning server drives into shared virtual storage.

Yet another solution comes from ONStor, which has leveraged Sun's Zettabyte File System (ZFS) for the Pantera LS 2100 to incorporate iSCSI and NAS environments with a range of OpenSolaris-based management techniques. The system supports SAS, SATA and solid state drives, scalable up to 15 TB. The company plans to use ZFS as the foundation for a range of NAS gateway devices suitable for larger organizations.

That storage consolidation is making its way to the low end of the market is a sign that storage-related issues of all stripes can be brought under control regardless of how big or complicated existing networks have become. Most experts will tell you that the key to storage efficiency is to establish a unified central network first, and then hook up existing silos one by one, targeting specific areas for further consolidation as they arise.

If small businesses can do it, anyone can.