Analyst's Corner

Make the Next Storage Move


Organizations reduce costs by matching the right type of storage to their needs.

By David Baum

July/August 2011


Oracle Magazine spoke with Benjamin S. Woo, program vice president for worldwide storage systems at International Data Corporation (IDC), about today’s evolving storage technology and how to create an effective strategy for delivering data to the enterprise.

Oracle Magazine: How can businesses create storage strategies that keep them ahead of data growth?

Woo: To create an effective storage strategy that accommodates growing data volume and maximizes your gigabyte per dollar, you have to balance access time against application requirements. There is a place for high-performance solid-state drives [SSDs]; slower, high-capacity disk drives; and tape drives. Matching application attributes with data at each stage of the data lifecycle—from initial processing to final archiving—will enable you to correlate your needs with the right solution set.

Oracle Magazine: How is disk storage technology evolving in terms of technology and use?

Woo: We will continue to see increases at both ends of the spectrum—in capacity and performance. Performance will increase through the penetration of SSD technology, while capacity will increase through the proliferation of multiterabyte SATA [serial ATA] drives. We now have drives that hold 3 terabytes per unit in the open market. These high-capacity drives will lower the power envelope and also increase the amount of data that can be stored in one place. We will also see a gradual movement toward flash technology for some high-performance applications.

Oracle Magazine: What is the optimal use of flash technology in a storage environment?

Woo: Flash is a performance technology, so it is not designed to replace all storage. It’s not suitable if you are looking to maximize your gigabyte per dollar of capacity. Most people equate performance with capacity, but these are two very separate measures. IDC’s research indicates that flash technology will represent from 2 to 5 percent of total storage within larger enterprises.

Oracle Magazine: How should organizations measure storage performance?

Woo: For starters, don’t just read the spec sheet! Sheer performance is just one measure of utility, and not all types of drives are appropriate for all purposes. The best way to evaluate your particular storage needs is to look at the number of I/Os or storage transactions that represent your peak load, and then address those performance needs with the appropriate type of storage media.

Oracle Magazine: What are the leading advancements in storage controllers, and how do these devices help IT departments?

Woo: Storage controllers are starting to adopt multicore, multi-CPU technology. This will become very valuable as much of today’s single-threaded storage software is rewritten to take advantage of multicore processors. For example, you could have one core doing all the RAID calculations, another core doing NFS, a couple of cores handling compression and deduplication, and so forth. Multithreading will give customers a lot more bang for their buck. It will also help IT departments manage multiple storage functions in a unified way.

Oracle Magazine: Oracle Exadata technology moves certain aspects of database processing into the storage layer. What are the database and storage benefits of this technology?

Woo: Systems like Oracle Exadata are what we call object-based storage systems because they provide a more direct link between where data objects are stored and the leveraging of those data objects for value-creation purposes. Interjecting database technology at this level not only dramatically improves the performance of database queries and transactions but also lets you store user-definable metadata, such as the ability to tag a file as “personal,” “public,” or “enterprise,” to identify its purpose and relevance.

Oracle Magazine: What is the future of tape storage technology?

Woo: Tape is not going away. It is still the most cost-effective way to store offsite, offline data. As alternatives, people have talked about “spin-down drives” and other technologies that minimize energy consumption and maximize equipment life. But if you don’t need data for a lengthy period, it is still more efficient to offload it to tape and place it “at rest” in a library. Tape is a great long-term archival technology, and it is the most reliable and cost-effective technology for achieving persistence.

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