The Increasingly Diverse World of Storage

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    Software-Defined Storage: Driving a New Era of the Cloud

    The changes to storage technology have been well-documented over the years. From tape to disk to solid state, not to mention DAS, SAN/NAS and StaaS, the only constant in the storage industry has been change.

    Lately, however, these technological changes are starting to coalesce in the data center to produce not only bigger and better storage, but entirely new architectures designed to address increasingly specialized workloads. This has given the enterprise unprecedented ability to craft their own storage environments, rather than simply upgrade their legacy vendor solutions.

    Naturally, this is producing a fair amount of turmoil in the traditionally staid storage industry. As Redmond Magazine’s Jeffrey Schwartz notes, established firms like EMC, HP and NetApp are under increasing pressure from start-ups like Nasuni and Pure Storage who are turning to advanced cloud-based and Flash memory solutions aimed specifically at mobile and cloud-based data loads. Even companies like Microsoft are moving into storage hardware as they ramp up their cloud offerings in the race to beat Amazon to the highly lucrative enterprise storage market.

    Of course, this isn’t to say companies like EMC are oblivious to the change. The new VMAX3 platform is intended to marry legacy storage infrastructure with advanced cloud architectures, improving performance and reducing costs in the bargain. The system features the HyperMax OS, which the company describes as a converged storage hypervisor/operating system designed to embed storage services throughout the environment. Meanwhile, the Dynamic Virtual Matrix allocates processing power to specific workloads, while the ProtectPoint feature provides direct backup to the EMC Data Domain platform.

    Waiting in the wings, however, are a number of advanced storage technologies that promise even further disruption. Magnetoresistive RAM (MRAM), for example, is poised to make its mark on enterprise and cloud-based workloads through companies like Mangstor and Everspin. The pair has teamed up on a new line of intelligent storage devices that provide high-performance acceleration and data protection on streamlined, low-power platforms.

    And Western Digital is touting what it calls a breakthrough in solid-state performance using phase-change memory (PCM) and a 45-nanomillimeter process that delivers up to 3 million IOPS for 512-byte data blocks. The solution, created by Western Digital’s HGST subsidiary, features a chalcogenide alloy that can shift between crystalline and amorphous states to improve both read/write performance and overall transfer speed. The prototype presented at the recent Flash Memory Summit in San Jose offered latency of less than one millisecond.

    Modern storage architectures, then, are anything but boring. The traditional all-purpose, one-size-fits-all architecture of the past is giving way to dynamic, reconfigurable platforms designed to provide peak performance for the data load at hand.

    While this represents an opportunity for the enterprise to improve service and streamline architecture, it also poses a challenge to lay the proper storage foundation – not just for today’s needs, but tomorrow’s as well.

    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, Carpathia and NetMagic.


    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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