A Petabyte of Storage Isn't What it Used to Be

Just a few years ago, few CIOs would have imagined managing a petabyte of storage in their data center. Those that did typically had a significant staff of storage administrators to manage the complex SAN infrastructure required. But in today's world where a 500 GB laptop drive fits in your shirt pocket and consumer 2 TB drives can be purchased at your favorite electronics store for about $100, the petabyte barrier is being crossed even by many mid size organizations. But as storage administrators know, a petabyte worth of disk drives doesn't equate to a petabyte of usable storage. Disk formatting and RAID partitioning can use up to 50% of your storage and user quotas meant to ensure a single user doesn't use up all of your storage downloading high definition video files can leave valuable unused storage inaccessible when you need it. As a result, many CIOs are surprised to learn just how little they actually can store on a petabyte of storage. Worse yet, software features like deduplication and compression, if even available, are sold as costly add-on options which require even more staff hours to administer. If you are wondering how to deal with the ever increasing cost and complexity of delivering petabyte class enterprise storage infrastructure, you need look no further than Oracle's Sun Unified Storage.

Starting with the entry level Sun Storage 7110, Sun Unified Storage scales up to 576 TB of raw capacity with the newly upgraded Sun Storage 7410. However, unlike other storage offerings that deliver much less usable storage than their raw capacity, Oracle's unified storage offerings often delivery more storage than their raw capacity. Lets take a look at how that's done.

For starters, Oracle's unified storage products are all based on the ZFS file system so you get ZFS's powerful data compression built in at no additional cost. ZFS data compression not only saves valuable storage space, it can actually speed up applications like the MySQL database. Listen to what Oracle customer Don MacAskill from online photo site SmugMug had to say about ZFS data compression and MySQL. Full disclaimer, I'm a happy paying customer of SmugMug storing about 20,000 pictures on the site.

Of course, Oracle's unified storage offers a lot more ways to save storage than simple data compression. While other storage vendors require you to purchase costly software upgrades, often from 3rd party firms, to enable data deduplication, all of Oracle's unified storage servers now offer deduplication built in. So if I upload 10 copies of the same picture to SmugMug they only need to store it once (actually, SmugMug keeps four copies of every unique picture I upload, one of the best availability and preservation policies of any photo site). Or if I'm running 10 copies of the same Oracle VM virtual machine image, deduplication can save me from storing duplicate data.

While SmugMug doesn't put any quotas on how many photos I can upload and store, most enterprise environments enforce user quotas to ensure a single user doesn't use up more storage than expected. Quotas have been around for many years. If you have a 100 TB filesystem, you can allocate 100 users a 1 TB quota and ensure you never run out of space. However, since many users will never use even a fraction of their quota, quotas can actually waste space. Enter so-called "lightweight" quotas. A lightweight quota scheme only allocates space to a user when they require it, allowing you, for instance, to share a 100 TB filesystem with 200 users, each with a 1 TB quota. This of course requires some additional active management as you approach your filesystem capacity to move users to new filesystems as you approach capacity. However, even most so-called lightweight quote systems don't reclaim space when a user deletes files. So if you have 100 users store 1 TB each of data, then they each delete half a TB, the quota system will still show 100 TB allocated. Oracle's unified storage is one of the only systems to implement truly lightweight quote systems. If a user stores 1 TB of data, then deletes half of it, the remaining 500 GB becomes available for other users.

The combination of data compression, data deduplication, and lightweight quotas all help you stretch more value out of a petabyte of data. Of course, those are only some of the ways that Oracle's unified storage helps you simplify your storage.

A petabyte of storage just isn't what it used to be.


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