Doug Rainbolt is V.P. of Marketing for storage acceleration provider, Alacritech, Inc. 
As we enter 2012, data center and enterprise managers are faced with an array of storage choices. Some of these options have been highly publicized like flash storage, and some, such as WAN optimization, have become more staid and entrenched. In an effort to separate the hype from the bottom line, I’ve outlined seven storage solutions that managers should consider as they approach the 2012 budgeting process. The recommendations below are based not on the “newness” of any technology but rather usefulness and dollar value.
While it’s easy to get comfortable with what we know, we should all be questioning the status quo. Based on your existing storage infrastructure, your resources, the characteristics of your data and the access required, this is a perfect time to take a fresh look at the storage options in the market. It’s key to evaluate how they can increase performance while reducing, or at the very least, maintaining operating costs and capital expenditures as your storage demands accelerate.
What Are The Best Storage Options?
. Since being popularized by 3Par, and well before being acquired by Hewlett-Packard, thin-provisioning technology plays an extremely important role in provisioning storage capacity. I remember in the early days of SAN, there were those that postulated that enterprises were actually using more capacity by over-provisioning in anticipation of data growth. With thin provisioning, enterprises can provision for what they need while adding capacity as needed, without the headaches of carving out new LUNs (logical unit numbers). I learned from a 3Par insider that a technologist within the company came up with the idea in response to a challenge to differentiate 3Par, not fully appreciating at the time just how powerful this would become.
2. Object Oriented Storage and REST (Representational State Transfer)
. Initially, this technology will have a bigger impact from the cloud perspective. Increasingly, enterprises will feel more comfortable storing data in the public cloud. HTTP will likely be the transport, making use of REST as a means to move and store data while providing the rich meta-data descriptions accompanying data. Initially, I see the primary use cases as being across the wide area, but in the long-run don’t be surprised to see it take hold in the data center.
3. WAN Optimization
. The efficiencies that can be gained by using WAN optimization products, such as Riverbed Technology, are extreme. Decreasing the amount of traffic sent across the WAN, by both removing duplicate data and compressing the remainder, can result in significant storage savings, decreased latencies, and decreased expense associated with WAN bandwidth. As enterprises find themselves both viewing and creating data throughout the world, WAN optimization is key to enabling users LAN-type access while keeping a lid on storage, networking, and storage expenses.
4. Tiered Storage
. As enterprises look to balance cost and performance, the idea of storing data on the best media to match data value and performance expectations makes sense. Data that is very infrequently accessed shouldn’t necessarily be storage on SSDs or higher performance disk-drives. Vendors have introduced storage products that feature automated data placement based upon access patterns. Flash can constitute either a storage tier, often labeled as Tier 0, or as cache. There are benefits to both. Enterprises should understand how data is placed on which media and model data growth to better understand the cost of scaling capacity and performance before making a purchasing decision.
5. Scale-Out NAS
. Traditional scale-up NAS as we know it will transition into becoming a smaller and smaller percent of the mid-range and enterprise-range of the NAS market. It’s being replaced by scale-out, which provides enterprises with the ability to add incrementally, in a clustered fashion, both capacity and performance while working under the construct of a Global Name Space. Provisioning of storage can be greatly simplified and it’s not uncommon to find a single storage administrator managing petabytes of data. The total cost of ownership can be greatly reduced.
6. Performance Layer Appliances
. Think of appliances that are less concerned about managing NAS based capacity. These store data and are more concerned about moving data with maximum efficiency – i.e., an appliance that not only caches data but accelerates its placement on the wire. It is NAS optimization that gives IOPS back to the NAS, an appliance unburdened with all of the heavy computation duties reserved for the NAS. The result is increased performance and significantly less capital and operating expenses.
. FCoE, or Fiber Channel over Ethernet, helps enterprises extend the reach of Fibre Channel across Ethernet infrastructure. And saving money on infrastructure, including cable and power management, is a really big deal. Ironically, we don’t read much about FCoE anymore. Nor do we hear or read about the raging battles between iSCSI and Fibre Channel. But this doesn’t mean that it’s not going to become important. The winner is Ethernet. Many enterprises openly acknowledge having both ample block and file traffic and are looking for products to handle both. While the growth rate for file based storage is outpacing block storage, don’t expect the need for Fibre Channel or FCoE to go away anytime soon.
Making new choices doesn’t have to put your current infrastructure and data center management at risk and taking a look at some of these options can reap very real financial rewards.
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