Why Unified Storage


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Unified storage is a single shared pool of storage that can combine both block and file data, eliminating the need to manage separate block and file systems. Fewer storage systems mean fewer systems to power and cool, which can reduce costs and optimize resources. Check out this expert E-Guide to learn more about unified storage including why the adoption rate is rising among users, how it works and the top advantages of this type of storage.

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Why Unified Storage

  1. 1. E-GuideWhy unified storage?Unified storage is a single shared pool of storage that can combineboth block and file data, eliminating the need to manage separateblock and file systems. Fewer storage systems mean fewer systems topower and cool, which can reduce costs and optimize resources. Checkout this expert E-Guide to learn more about unified storage includingwhy the adoption rate is rising among users, how it works and the topadvantages of this type of storage. Sponsored By:
  2. 2. SearchSMBStorage.com E-Guide Why unified storage? E-Guide Why unified storage? Table of Contents Unified data storage adoption rate rising among users Unified storage plays important role in data storage environments About Dell and MicrosoftSponsored By: Page 2 of 11
  3. 3. SearchSMBStorage.com E-Guide Why unified storage?Unified data storage adoption rate rising amongusersBy Terri McClure, ContributorWhat youll learn in this tip: The unified data storage adoption rate is rising as morestorage administrators realize the benefits the technology can provide to their data storageenvironments. Unified storage is a single shared pool of storage that can combine bothblock and file data, eliminating the need to manage separate block and file systems. Fewerstorage systems mean fewer systems to power and cool, which can reduce costs andoptimize resources. Plus, as virtual server environments and the cloud become morepopular among users, consolidation is key. Having one unified storage system helps create astandardized environment.In her latest Storage magazine column, Terri McClure, a senior analyst at EnterpriseStrategy Group (ESG), analyzes the latest unified data storage trends.Although it seems like we’ve been hearing about unified storage forever, it’s still relativelynew -- and that means we’re fairly early in the adoption cycle.But it’s clear that unified, or multiprotocol, storage has a pretty attractive value proposition.In a unified storage environment, data storage becomes a shared resource pool, available tostore either block or file data that can be configured to meet application needs as theyarise. So it comes as no surprise that there’s significant user interest in deploying unifiedstorage platforms. In a recent survey of 306 IT professionals with storage planning ordecision-making responsibilities, ESG found that 70% of those surveyed have eitherdeployed or are planning to deploy unified storage: 23% have deployed the technology,while 47% are still in the planning phase.Why unified data storage?Our figure of one out of every four surveyed IT users deploying unified storage is significantin that data storage users are notoriously conservative when it comes to adopting newSponsored By: Page 3 of 11
  4. 4. SearchSMBStorage.com E-Guide Why unified storage?technologies, and for good reason. The adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is alive and wellin storage infrastructure teams.If a storage array fails and data is inaccessible or lost, it could cost a firm millions of dollarsand the storage administrator could lose their job. Users have been dealing with havingseparate systems for block and file data, and are used to it. They’ll continue their current,stovepiped approach until they’re sufficiently comfortable the technology has matured andthere’s no risk in adoption, or their corporate budgets demand a more affordable, flexibleand efficient solution. Our research indicates it may be a matter of both.Unified storage can increase operational efficiency by providing a single shared pool ofstorage that can be used where and when needed, eliminating the need to deploy, power,cool and manage separate block and file systems. This simple reduction in the number ofsystems to deploy can go a long way in reducing operational costs, never mind the flexibilityafforded to the business from having a system that can be deployed in whatever capacityneeded (without having to pay the price of having guessed wrong when doing their capacityplanning exercise).Virtualized environments present an even greater challenge. Using standards-basedcommodity physical servers, new virtual servers and applications can be deployed in afraction of the time it used to take in a physical world, and the virtual machines could needeither file or block storage to support apps.A fluid virtual server environment creates a requirement for a fluid, responsive storageenvironment. Yet storage continues to be fragmented and specialized. Unified storage goesa long way in alleviating these issues.Unified storage usage trendsESG research finds a clear correlation between the number of systems under managementand unified storage adoption. A whopping 80% of those with 26 to 100 discrete storagesystems, and 83% of those with 100 or more systems, have either deployed or plan todeploy unified storage -- and those with 100 or more systems are leading the early adoptercategory, with 32% having already deployed unified storage. This corresponds to ESG’sSponsored By: Page 4 of 11
  5. 5. SearchSMBStorage.com E-Guide Why unified storage?spending data results that users continue their drive to reduce their overall cost of doingbusiness, especially on the operational cost front.It follows that we would see a strong correlation between unified storage adoption andsatisfaction with utilization rates, as unified storage eliminates specialized block or filestovepipes, and that’s what our research shows. Eighty-nine percent of early adopters aremostly or completely satisfied with their utilization rates vs. 77% of those currently notusing unified storage. We see the biggest differential with those reporting they’recompletely satisfied, with nearly a third of early adopters falling in this category, two-and-a-half times the number of non-adopters that are completely satisfied. Significantly, not asingle unified storage adopter responded they were “not at all satisfied.”Unified data storage deployment alternativesToday, users have multiple approaches to deploying unified storage; they can deploy aunified storage system, which is an integrated system that supports both block and filedata, or they can deploy a file gateway that attaches via a storage-area network (SAN) toblock storage shared with other applications. Our research indicates there isn’t a strongpreference for either approach, with 30% of respondents using or planning to use a unifiedsystem, 32% a gateway and 35% planning to use both approaches.There are certainly business cases that can be made for both. Gateways allow users toredeploy existing block storage investments to support file data by adding a “filepersonality” to the front end. But the downside is that the SAN-attached block storage andthe gateway are truly two distinct components that need to be managed. Unified systemsdon’t carry the attraction of allowing users to tap into existing SAN assets, but they doreduce the number of systems under management. ESG expects to see the continued trendof users taking both approaches to unify their data storage environments because usersmust deal with properly allocating existing investments in concert with adding new systems.The bottom lineWhile specific implementation strategies may still be undetermined, ESG’s research clearlyfinds unified storage will become more common. It’s attractive in terms of both IT andSponsored By: Page 5 of 11
  6. 6. SearchSMBStorage.com E-Guide Why unified storage?financial efficiency -- a winning combination by any standard. ESG’s findings reveal a cleardesire for improved system efficiency as IT groups look to optimize their current storageinfrastructure investments in light of continuing data growth and the ongoing tough macro-economic climate.In addition to covering up past IT sins such as poor capacity utilization, unified storage canhelp IT organizations accelerate infrastructure consolidation and resource optimization,which are crucial components to future visions of dynamic, highly virtualized or privatecloud computing environments. Indeed, as “cloud” becomes a more common model for theconsumption of IT resources, there’s another explicit value for the standardization thatunified storage can deliver.Sponsored By: Page 6 of 11
  7. 7. SearchSMBStorage.com E-Guide Why unified storage?Unified storage plays important role in data storageenvironmentsBy Pierre Dorion, ContributorWhat youll learn in this tip: Unified storage has been around for many years. Instead ofseveral disk arrays in one system, unified or multiprotocol storage is a centralized diskarray. Learn how unified storage works, the advantages of using a multiprotocol storagearray in your environment, possible challenges the technology presents and the futuresurrounding unified storage systems.Unified storage was introduced nearly a decade ago and has the ability to present datastorage to host systems using different protocols -- hence the term multiprotocol storage.One of the earliest popular forms of unified storage combined IP-based network-attachedstorage (NAS) and Fibre Channel (FC) or storage-area network (SAN) storage.How does unified storage work?A multiprotocol storage array is essentially a centralized disk array made available to hostsystems via an IP-based network for file-level access and a SAN for block-level access usingthe Fibre Channel protocol. iSCSI is also a very common IP block-level storage protocol. Thedisk storage resources are pooled and offered via one of the protocols. Disk arrays are alsoequipped with multiport storage controllers with a management interface allowing storageadministrators to create disk pools or volumes and assign them to the appropriate port foraccess. Common protocol combinations include NAS and FC, or iSCSI and FC. Its possibleto combine all three protocols, but because iSCSI and FC are both block-level protocols,many data storage administrators typically choose one or the other combined with file-levelaccess (NAS).Advantages of unified storageCentralized storage arrays initially offered the ability to pool storage resources that werepreviously directly attached to host systems (DAS) and quite often inefficiently used. Butsingle protocol storage arrays themselves also proved to be inefficient at times; inSponsored By: Page 7 of 11
  8. 8. SearchSMBStorage.com E-Guide Why unified storage?environments where both NAS and SAN arrays coexisted, future growth capacity had to beallocated to each array and couldnt be pooled because each data storage array offered asingle access mode. Multiprotocol arrays enable the pooling of all disk resources in onearray, including capacity for future growth which can be allocated where needed.Another advantage of unified storage is the ability to implement block-level replication atthe array level to create copies of all data on a single array regardless of access protocol. Inother words, data accessed at the file level and via iSCSI or FC can be replicated locally(snapshots) or to another storage (mirror) using a single mechanism.Possible challenges of a unified storage architectureThere are some possible challenges that shouldnt be overlooked when considering a unifiedstorage architecture; these challenges have to do with performance. IP-based storageleverages the TCP/IP protocol, which can create a significant amount of processing overheadand affect the overall host system performance. While todays processors offer a lot more"horsepower," server virtualization can further increase the demand for CPU cycle whenmultiple virtual machines on a single physical host are configured for NAS access.iSCSI can offset this overhead as long as its implemented using a host bus adapter (HBA)that has an onboard chip for processing, thus relieving the CPU from the added load.Although its possible to implement software-based iSCSI using a regular network interfacecard (NIC), the processing overhead is again handled by the server CPU, which can affectsystem performance as mentioned earlier.The data backup strategy must also be carefully planned to avoid performance issues. Whenusing traditional host-based backup software over the network concurrently with iSCSI orNAS storage, network traffic can end up doubled to accommodate array-to-host and host-to-backup server traffic, which can have a negative impact on CPU performance due toTCP/IP overhead. This approach usually works best when backup and I/O traffic are kept onseparate networks. Its also advisable to consider snapshot-based backup technology tolimit network traffic and added host-based processing.Sponsored By: Page 8 of 11
  9. 9. SearchSMBStorage.com E-Guide Why unified storage?Unified storage managementAnother benefit is the ability to execute storage administration tasks such as disk resourcepooling, volume and RAID group creation, and allocation and data replication, all from asingle management interface. In single vendor environments, storage administrators canmanage more than one multiprotocol array from the same management interface and anumber of vendors now offer the ability to manage dissimilar or heterogeneous storagearrays from a single interface. This has been a significant improvement from the not-so-distant days where each storage platform required a separate management softwarepackage.The next level of unified storage is achieved using virtualization. The technology providesthe ability to pool FC SAN storage from multivendor arrays and make it available to hostsystems via protocols such as CIFS or NFS (NAS) for file-level access and FC or iSCSI forblock-level access. LUNs are created on the different FC storage arrays and allocated to amultiprotocol storage controller via the SAN fabric as if it were a regular host system. Thestorage controller acts as the virtualization engine or abstraction layer between the storagearrays and the servers, which can access storage based on the protocol for which theyreconfigured. In other words, the "virtualization" controller takes care of the protocolconversion. This provides the ability to better utilize storage resources and to create storagetiers across which data can be migrated seamlessly. Theres also the added benefit of usinglocal or remote replication between "back-end" arrays to provide data protection using asingle software package implemented at the controller level.Latest unified storage development: Unified networkingThe latest development in unified storage is taking place at the network level. Fibre Channelover Ethernet (FCoE) is the latest technology in that arena, and its often referred to asunified networking. In contrast with an array that can present storage to hosts usingdifferent protocols (and different adapters), FCoE enables host systems to share a single 10Gb Ethernet (10 GbE) link to send both IP traffic and block-level I/O.This is made possible via converged network adapters (CNAs) that contain both FibreChannel HBA and Ethernet NIC functionality on the same adapter card combined with theSponsored By: Page 9 of 11
  10. 10. SearchSMBStorage.com E-Guide Why unified storage?encapsulation of the FC protocol. To some degree, this can be compared to iSCSI, which isalso a block-level storage protocol travelling over an IP network, but FCoE enables theintegration of high-bandwidth FC storage and IP traffic over a single link. IP traffic and I/Oare later separated at a switch and redirected respectively to a LAN and a SAN. One of thebenefits of FCoE is the reduction of cabling in the data center while taking advantage of 10Gb Ethernet and soon 40 GB.There are many debates over whether theres a need for two block-level storage protocolsor if one will eventually prevail, but thats another discussion. One thing we can say for sureis that unified storage, along with unified networking, has an important role to play inemerging computing styles such as the much talked about "cloud computing."Sponsored By: Page 10 of 11
  11. 11. SearchSMBStorage.com E-Guide Why unified storage?About Dell and MicrosoftFor more than 25 years, Dell and Microsoft have worked to deliver jointly-developedsolutions that simplify IT management, optimize performance and evolve the way yourbusiness operates. Since the very beginning of our long-term partnership together, Dell andMicrosoft have aligned to deliver customer-driven, innovative solutions that span the entireMicrosoft® product portfolio.Sponsored By: Page 11 of 11