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Extending Your Storage

In our last entry we discussed what to look for in a new storage system. But what if you don't have the budget for a new storage system or your current system is not old enough that you dare bring up the subject of replacing it? The alternative is to look for solutions that can extend the usefulness of what you currently have.
In our last entry we discussed what to look for in a new storage system. But what if you don't have the budget for a new storage system or your current system is not old enough that you dare bring up the subject of replacing it? The alternative is to look for solutions that can extend the usefulness of what you currently have.Typically you need to extend your storage for one of three reasons; more performance, more capacity or simpler management. Performance, especially with affordable SSD technology, looks to be the easiest to address. Looks can be deceiving though. For SSD to work the performance bottleneck must be at the storage mechanism itself. Everything else; the servers, the HBAs and the storage network must be operating at peak performance. An analysis tool either in the OS or from a third party is an ideal investment to make sure that you are using the resources that you have at your disposal prior to an investment in SSD.

If you determine that SSD can help you there are two basic choices today. The first is a specific SSD drive. These are ideal when addressing a small problem data set that can be moved to the SSD. Alternatively there are the automated tiering systems or caching systems that are available. While many of the manufacturers are offering these as part of a new system, there are a few vendors offering them as add-on's to existing storage infrastructures. As we discussed in our recent entry over at Network Computing, these systems can either come in the form of a caching appliance that sits in front of your SAN or NAS accelerating I/O or it can be a file virtualization appliance that more permanently moves data between discrete tiers of storage.

If you have more of a capacity issue, you have two basic options. The first is to shrink what you have either through deduplication and/or compression. At this point most of these options are available only for file systems or NAS. In these environments there are several options to either compress data in real time or to deduplicate data. Compression does have the advantage of being universally useful. Almost all data compresses. Deduplication is only going to save space on redundant data. There are options to add both technologies to existing NAS environments.

The alternative with file systems is to archive this data to either a disk based archive or to a cloud based archive. While this does require an additional purchase of a new storage tier, it also has the advantages that we have discussed in the past like reducing the size of the actual data being backed up and building a foundation for compliance and data retention.

The other option in storage efficiency is to be able to apply thin provisioning as we discussed in our last entry. If your current storage system does not have the capability to thinly provision volumes then it can be added by continuing to leverage your current storage hardware but switching to a different storage software platform. We will look at these in our next entry when we will look at simplification. How can you make an existing storage system easier to use without getting a new one?

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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.

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