Analyst's Corner

Engineered Storage

Preintegrated storage platforms combine the best hardware with software to simplify operations and improve performance.

By David Baum

May/June 2012

Oracle Magazine spoke with Benjamin S. Woo, program vice president for Worldwide Storage Systems at International Data Corporation (IDC), about how organizations are looking at the present and future of enterprise storage with engineered storage solutions.

Oracle Magazine: What are the top priorities and solutions in enterprise storage today?

Woo: From a technology perspective, today’s storage solutions are a lot more focused on performance. Additionally, there are a lot more types of media available, from tape to multiple types of magnetic disks such as large-capacity SATA [serial ATA] drives to very fast solid-state devices. Today’s intelligent storage platforms understand the types of data being stored and the performance characteristics that organizations require from the storage system.

Oracle Magazine: How does the type of I/O affect the choice, cost, and operation of enterprise storage solutions?

Woo: Customers often focus on cost per gigabyte, but they also need to consider cost per I/O operation. IDC research reveals that solid-state technology can be 10 times less costly per I/O operation than traditional magnetic media. Storage vendors provide different tiers of storage corresponding to different types of media, along with built-in software to predict and analyze which types of I/O operations equate with which types of media.

Oracle Magazine: How are today’s engineered storage solutions addressing these I/O types?

Woo: Engineered storage systems have different degrees of sophistication to match the storage media to the optimum I/O, performance, and capacity needs of each application. Engineering takes different forms, from controlling the basic array technology that is integrated into any storage system, to managing virtualization or thin provisioning, to provisioning storage capacity based on certain needs, to organizing data into storage pools. These levels of sophistication make the system progressively more complex. However, they also provide more granularity and more control over how I/O capabilities can be distributed to the servers.

Oracle Magazine: How are storage administrators managing today’s different workloads?

Woo: No human can keep up with the complexity of managing various application workloads, particularly in large virtual environments. Even a single application can have several I/O profiles, from transaction processing to archiving. Automated storage environments prioritize these workloads based on the needs and policies that the IT organization establishes. They also remove any possibility of human error by applying the right techniques and policies at the right time, while handling millions of operations per second.

Oracle Magazine: What is the status of tape in enterprise storage, and what are the leading advancements in tape storage technology?

Woo: The prediction about the death of tape is about as long in the tooth as the death of the mainframe. Tape is a critical part of any organization because it’s still the cheapest medium on which to store data for the long term. Secondly, tape is unique in that, unlike online backups and snapshots, data stored on tape is truly offline and the media can be stored offsite. One significant advancement in tape technology is LTO [Linear Tape-Open] version five and Linear Tape File System [LTFS], which enables files to be written to tape in a self-describing format. LTFS presents a tape in the form of a disk. You can search on it and follow the directory structure, which enables you to be more precise with what you want to restore or how you want to take action based on what you have stored. Thus, for the first time ever, we can refer to data on tape just by referencing data on disk.

Oracle Magazine: What are the most interesting storage changes and advancements on the horizon?

Woo: The greatest change is in your pocket. The smartphone is changing the way data is created, consumed, and stored. For the first time in computing history, we no longer just have to manage what’s in the data center but also what’s not in the data center—and at some point that set of data will be the greater of the two. That’s frightening for a lot of organizations, and it makes the ability to understand the flow of data and its persistence and its usage and so forth absolutely critical to any evolving storage strategy.

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