Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

Look Before You Leap to Converged Storage

With the expanding number of converged solutions in the market, chances are you will find one that comfortably matches your needs, writes Janae Lee of Quantum. Here are three tips to consider when evaluating converged storage offerings.

Industry Perspectives

January 20, 2015

4 Min Read
Look Before You Leap to Converged Storage

Janae Lee, senior vice president of strategy at Quantum, has over 30 years of experience in the computer and digital storage industry, as a CEO and senior executive leading sales, marketing, product and strategy organizations.

The hottest storage offerings these days are all about making digital storage easier (and by inference, cheaper to manage). The move to converged storage represents a perfect example.

The drive for ease of use is natural, particularly considering the challenge and expense of finding skilled storage professionals. But given the industry’s desire to define whatever is new as the answer to world peace, it once again falls on the shoulders of IT decision makers to be sure they understand what they’re buying. Here are three tips to consider when evaluating converged storage offerings.

Evaluating Converged Storage Offerings: 3 Areas of Consideration

Be aware that you are buying a solution to a specific problem, not the answer to all your storage problems. Use the solution for the purpose for which it was designed.

I’ve seen a number of articles recently implying that a converged storage solution is good for (mostly) everything. That’s just not true. If your performance and budget requirements aren’t very demanding, sure, you can buy anything and it will work okay. But the truth is that different applications need different flavors of storage performance, a mix of latency, throughput and IOPs. You wouldn’t configure the same storage for email as you do for big data analytics. Tightly packaging compute, storage, and smart data caching software into a converged solution doesn’t change this fact.

To accommodate this need to match product design to requirements, when vendors create their unique version of converged storage, they have a customer ecosystem and an application, or set of applications in mind. This influences their capacity choice for SSD and disk and whether they use object storage. It also influences their caching algorithm. It may even determine whether they include a spigot to the cloud.

So as you look at these solutions, you must pay attention to both the technical specifications and the marketing pages on the vendor’s website. What use cases do they highlight? What applications are their customers running? If these don’t match your requirements, you may want to ask a lot more questions (or run a POC) before you put this solution on your short list. Otherwise, the solution won’t give you the performance (or price-performance) you’re seeking.

Consider your future growth as you create your short list.

The vendor’s converged storage model also deserves consideration in the context of time, as your needs increase. Think about your growth requirements as you consider the solution. Converged solutions are scale-out solutions, offering non-disruptive growth. But many of these scale-out configurations have a locked ratio of compute to storage that you buy as you grow. If this package doesn’t match your problem, your converged solution will be very expensive over time, as you either buy a bunch of storage or a bunch of processing that will sit idle. Many genomics research companies discovered this, to their dismay, as getting the large capacities they needed to support their ongoing data growth meant they had to buy much more processing capability than they wanted to pay for. Look for a solution that grows the way you expect to grow.

Be careful to not create a converged storage silo.

The simplicity of converged storage solutions make them very attractive as a means to satisfy today’s requirements for easier, lower cost administration. Again, much of this easiness is derived from the vendor delivering a system which is well-designed to solve a particular application-centric problem. The challenge is you have many application-centric storage needs. While these applications have very different performance requirements, they may still share data, such as your transaction storage and your analytics system. Deploying a converged solution for one of these needs may dramatically impact your data movement cost, as you suddenly need to migrate data out of the converged solution to your other application. Because you don’t want to create a storage island, consider how you will need to move data from this storage into your data pool. You may decide the volume and difficulty of data movement means the converged solution isn’t as easy as it initially seems – shared storage is more complicated to manage, but it is also able to provide more universal data access.

With the expanding number of converged solutions in the market, chances are you will find one that comfortably matches your needs. But if you don’t - be aggressive with your suppliers about delivering easy storage solutions without the need to buy converged. This may give you the lower labor cost you are seeking along with greater flexibility and price performance.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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