Second there are the tools that can get different storage systems from different manufacturers to act as one. This often involves some form of storage virtualization. These storage virtualization solutions work at either a file level or block level and can get systems from a variety of vendors to be able to be interacted as one, meaning that actions can be taken universally across different storage manufacturers. In some cases, as we describe in our article "What is File Virtualization?", this can be relatively non-disruptive. File virtualization allows you to set file movement policies based on parameters like age, size, type or owner. This does not require too much change to the infrastructure, although individual NAS data service functions (i.e. not file management) have to be done from the GUI of that manufacturer's NAS appliance.
Block virtualization systems will vary but typically require a deeper commitment to that vendor and the data services they provide. However once that commitment is made the payoff is the storage software and it's services that used to be embedded into the controller of the storage system is now abstracted into software. This allows a mixed hardware vendor environment to be managed as one. It also allows for flexibility on all future purchases since almost anything can be added to the environment and still managed with the same interface. Most storage virtualization products are software based or appliance based and have the ability to scale performance to match capacity by clustering in additional nodes. Some can now run as virtual machines with in a server virtualization environment.
While having one storage platform is ideal, if that simply is not realistic for you then there are options that can provide much of the management simplicity of a single system. They then can also bring some added benefits of reduced vendor lock-in.
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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.