The cheapest filer is the one you don’t have to buy. A thin provisioned filer can do a lot more than a standard filer if you implement the concept properly. The investment in technology and processes that allow for a thin provisioned filer solution can therefore have a strong ROI.
First, a reminder of what we mean when we say thin provisioned filer. It refers to identifying older and seldom-used files and moving them to a self-healing object storage system. This eliminates or reduces the need to purchase more high-performance, high-cost filers. Alternatively, you can invest in a high-end filer plus cost-effective object-based storage that runs on commodity hardware rather than purchasing multiple expensive filers. With all of these scenarios, you can dramatically improve ROI.
Migrating older and unused files off a production filer and onto a less expensive system clears room for the filer to do its job. As discussed in another post, it helps the filer to run faster and to protect data more efficiently. A thin provisioned filer also leaves more room to store data that actually needs the benefits that a filer provides.
When you have a filer that can store more data and store it faster than it did before being thin provisioned, you have a filer that can do more with less. This results in savings from not needing to buy additional filers (or buying fewer filers) to accommodate the capacity or availability requirements of high-performance applications. This is especially important for expensive high-performance flash-based filers as thin provisioning them allows you to purchase far fewer.
There are also soft cost savings in the area of management. Fewer filers to buy also means fewer filers to manage. Filers that are not constantly running out of space for snapshots and other things are also easier to manage, significantly reducing the strain on your IT staff.
Since the answer to backing up a filer is always another filer, having fewer filers has data protection advantages as well. Fewer filers on the front end of the equation means fewer filers on the back end as targets for SnapMirror or SnapVault. It means fewer SnapVault and SnapMirror licenses as well. If you’re also backing up your filers using some type of NDMP-based system, that means fewer NDMP licenses to purchase.
Clearing out a filer of data that does not warrant the capabilities of a filer can save money in a number of ways. It creates room to grow without buying, managing, replicating, and backing up additional filers. Since a self-protecting object storage system will cost significantly less per terabyte — especially when you factor in replication and data protection costs — the ROI of implementing an object storage solution can be significant.
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