Sunday Feb 01, 2009

Traditional Arrays vs "The Open Storage Approach"

Why should I still use a traditional Array?

You may ask yourself why you should use a traditional array, if Sun is pushing towards OpenStorage? Good question! Now, as there isn't a cow that provides, milk, coke and beer, there isn't a storage product that does everything for you ... today. So, while our OpenStorage family is today perfect for IP network oriented access like CIFS, NFS and iSCSI it doesn't cover yet the FC block attached community. And despite all honour that ZFS and OpenSolaris deserve, an ASIC, if you have the money and the skills to build one, will do faster RAID calculations. ASICs do not require an operating system underneat the RAID code, which results in far less latency in calculation.

The Unanswered Question ...

There is one unanswered question that remains in the IT business. How long can companies afford to build ASICs that keep up with the performance increases in the volume business? ASICs, as the name states, are built for a certain purpose and therefore manufactured in a much lower volume. Means, they are simply much more expensive than general purpose built CPUs.

An other question might give you an impression of the future. Who is still programming Assembler? Every programmer knows that if you write perfect Assembler Code, no but really NO C, C++ or Java program will ever run faster than your Assembler program, right? But, programming Assembler gets so complex that you can't manage anymore your code. That's why we use abstraction layers to simplify your business.... Got a hint?

Now, there is also a huge design problem with a dedicated ASIC. You cannot extend its features by just upgrading the software as it is hardware. An ASIC can do what it's built for, and therefore is very limited in extending features! In a manufacturing and design perspective, this can be very limited. One little thing missing or wrong in a ASIC, and you will fail with the complete product without the chance to fix or change it. Uhhh, you better make no mistake ...

Conclusion

So depending on your requirements, you will have to choose the appropriate technology! If you can afford the no compromise way of storage, the best solution is to have both or maybe a combination of each. :-)

In a long term perspective, I only see one solution that survives. The combined approach of commodity hardware and software, provides the key elements that will succeed. This namely are:
  • Great price/performance
  • Possibility to add features (in best case for free) with easy upgrades
If the used software is open sourced, you suddenly have the ability to add features yourself to the subsystem! One example is the project COMSTAR that turns an OpenSolaris host into a SCSI target.

introducingCOMSTAR.png


So, you better keep the OpenStorage Vision of Sun in your mind.
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