As we discussed in our last column “Why Is Storage Hardware Sprawl Worse Than
Ever?”, toward the end of the last decade (2007-2010) the data center began to tap into the abundance of compute power available to it but providing the performance and capacity that these new workloads demanded required storage systems that were specific to the task. For many environments this meant more storage arrays and as a result storage sprawl has now reached epidemic proportions.
Flash was supposed to be the solution to all of our mixed-workload woes, at least workloads that needed a lot of storage performance. In these performance-centric workloads meeting performance demands is typically a bigger challenge than meeting capacity demands. But flash was, and largely still is, expensive so it must be used appropriately. While All-Flash Arrays have become more affordable, most data center managers are not convinced they can justify flash use for all workloads, not even all performance-centric workloads.
How and where to best apply flash continues to be a point of hot debate within the industry and as a result a myriad of solutions have appeared ranging from All-Flash Arrays and Hybrid Arrays, to SSD Appliances, server side flash solutions and legacy storage systems with flash. Depending on the data center each of these has a role in accelerating virtual servers, virtual desktops or database applications.
At the other end of the workload spectrum are the capacity-centric applications. The growth in unstructured data due to the increased use of office productivity applications and the massive growth in data created by sensors and cameras (a.k.a. “The Internet of Things”) has driven traditional network attached storage systems to their breaking points. Many data centers are looking at either scale-out NAS systems or even object storage systems to solve these unstructured data problems.
The pace in the growth of workloads is at an all time high. This is largely because you don’t need to acquire a new server anymore, just create another virtual machine. At the same time each of these workloads has varying needs for performance and capacity. To keep up, the stretched-too-thin IT professional has to buy storage systems for the specific workload or environment. It is not uncommon to find data centers with a storage system for the virtual desktop environment, another one for the virtual server environment, another for the specific database applications and then one or two for the different types of unstructured data that they need to store. This is storage sprawl at unprecedented proportions.
Can We Get Back to One Storage System for All?
So the big question is can we get back to a single or at least fewer storage systems in the data center or are we just stuck on this path? The answer is yes. Flash let us down because the speed of the storage media was only part of the problem. To solve storage system sprawl we have to do more than throw hardware in the form of flash at the problem. We have to change the storage system so it can adapt in real-time to the workloads it is servicing. This is something that can be done if the storage system leverages software defined networking in addition to software defined storage. For more on how Software Defined Networking can fix storage hardware see our article “Software Defined Networking For Better Scale-out Storage”.
Interested in learning more? Watch our webinar “Stopping Storage Hardware Sprawl” where experts from Storage Switzerland and Coho Data discuss what storage hardware sprawl is, why it is getting worse and most importantly how it can be stopped. As always we had most of the webinar time set aside for questions and answers so you can hear from other users on what their storage hardware sprawl problems are.
Also remember that by registering for one of Storage Switzerland webinars you gain access to our over 60 on-demand webinars featuring top CEOs and the Storage Switzerland analyst team discussing topics like: all-flash arrays, deduplication, SSDs, software-defined storage, backup appliances, data protection, object storage, cloud storage and storage networking.