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Where Will You Get Your Storage Services From?

Storage services is the intelligence added to storage systems that make them more than just a bunch of disk drives in a cabinet. This can range from the very basic RAID and LUN management functions to the more advanced snapshot and replication. The type of services a storage system is, to a large degree, where the vendors do battle. The differentiation between the services offered is often what makes you want one solution over the other.
Storage services is the intelligence added to storage systems that make them more than just a bunch of disk drives in a cabinet. This can range from the very basic RAID and LUN management functions to the more advanced snapshot and replication. The type of services a storage system is, to a large degree, where the vendors do battle. The differentiation between the services offered is often what makes you want one solution over the other.What a vendor's storage can do for you becomes a key issue now as you are being asked to do even more with even less. Storage services can help a vendor provide better performance, more reliability and most importantly easier management. We can go into a great and lengthy debate over what capabilities are most valuable and which vendor implements them best. In fact we often do. Today however let's cover where these services can be deployed. There are basically four locations for data services; the server, the storage hardware, a stand alone appliance or within the storage infrastructure.

The most common place to enable storage services is on the storage system itself. This is a tried and true approach and this is the way most people get their storage services. The competition between vendors is to see just how many storage services they can pack into their systems and how well those services can be delivered. Capabilities like virtualization, thin provisioning and now automated tiering are vying for your attention. Delivering storage services at the storage system level however is not without its detractors. Most will site that this method locks you into a single vendor for additional capacity and for the most part that is an accurate assertion. It also means that you are locked into them for all the storage services. If one storage vendor comes out with a great way to do automated tiering then you can't add that capability to your system. You have to wait until your vendor comes out with it. The exception is if the capability comes out on one of the other types of storage service deliverables.

Over the next several entries we will dissect the remaining three locations for delivering data services as they each have unique advantages. However they all share a common advantage; they don't care what type of storage you have. Essentially these techniques are lifting the storage services intelligence off of the storage system and placing it somewhere else. That could be on the switch, on a dedicated server in the environment or on the application server itself.

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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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