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7/30/2009
08:57 AM
George Crump
George Crump
Commentary
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Small Businesses Should Move To Shared Storage Sooner

With the cost of direct attached storage (DAS) dropping and the capacity that it can deliver for those dollars increasing, you would think that the demand for shared storage is dwindling. Reality is that shared storage is on the rise and the biggest reason for its growth has little to do with storage management or even data protection. Those are nice side benefits, however the real motivator is server virtualization.

With the cost of direct attached storage (DAS) dropping and the capacity that it can deliver for those dollars increasing, you would think that the demand for shared storage is dwindling. Reality is that shared storage is on the rise and the biggest reason for its growth has little to do with storage management or even data protection. Those are nice side benefits, however the real motivator is server virtualization.While the motivator is server virtualization, the facilitator is inexpensive and easy to deploy shared storage. What used to cost $50,000 now can be less than $5,000. What used to take a trained full time professional now can be managed part time. Shared storage is an affordable and realistic investment for small businesses and it makes server virtualization payoff double-time.

As anyone who has deployed a virtualized server environment knows, the magic happens when that environment is on a shared storage platform. The ability to move virtual servers from one host to another despite being cool brings many functional benefits to the business in terms of server availability and business flexibility. These advantages have not gone unnoticed in the small business community and they are looking to get into shared storage as soon and as inexpensively as possible.

A common place that SMBs are turning to is to leverage the investment they have already made in (DAS). Most SMBs start by growing out their server infrastructure first by adding servers and capacity to those servers. They then start to virtualize adding a hypervisor to one of those servers and additional RAID protected storage. All that is needed is the software intelligence to make that storage sharable.

To accomplish this customers can use software from StarWind Software or Nexenta to make a server with DAS become a storage system and begin to share the internal storage in it to multiple connected physical servers at dramatically low costs. They can also use software from companies like DataCore, Nexenta or FalconStor to run the storage software as a virtual instance on the existing infrastructure if the virtual host resources and the storage I/O will support it.

All of these solutions can grow well beyond the SMB space into the mid market. As well there are mid market solutions available from Scale Computing or Dell EqualLogic that are focused on that space. Even full fibre solutions now are simple and inexpensive enough to be considered in the mid market.

The bottom line is for the SMB, the need to move to shared storage should come sooner than in the past thanks to server virtualization. Any small business with even a single virtualization host should add a second host and shared storage to garner all the benefits of server virtualization. Now thanks to storage solutions like these they can do so more inexpensively and easily than ever.

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

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