The Four P’s of data are performance, protection, preservation and price. IT needs to ensure that each data set receives the right amount of the first three Ps and the right cost for the last one. The problem is the amount of performance, protection and preservation required by each application varies greatly between systems. Unfortunately, it is rare for a single storage system to be able to meet the four P demands of all the data sets in the environment and as a result, most organizations end up with multiple storage systems which increases cost and complexity.
When discussing consolidation most vendors focus on providing multiple file and block protocols like fibre channel, iSCSI, SMB and NFS. When consolidating it is important for the storage system to support this protocols, but consolidated storage systems need to do more. Where they fall short is their inability to address the varying four P needs of the various data sets in the environment.
Consolidating The Four P’s
There is a group of applications in the data center whose data needs incredibly high performance. All-flash systems are able to address the performance concern handily for most data centers. And the price of all-flash systems is now at the point that many data centers justify their use for all primary storage. But if the organization can’t justify an all-flash array for all-primary data they often will get a small all-flash system and a hard disk-based array. Increasing sprawl further.
The other problem is these systems are often lacking in terms of preservation and protection. Most require that replication be sent to another identical flash array or backed up to another vendor’s backup storage system.
IT needs to look for systems that can be either all-flash or a hybrid system that mixes flash and hard disk drives so even an organization with a tight budget can meet the performance expectation. The hybrid system also becomes important in terms of data protection. These systems need the ability to replicate data to a non-all-flash system if the customer chooses. Most secondary storage systems are standby only and spending extra money on an all-flash array that sits almost unused in the remote data center may be too much to ask.
At the same time, it is important to remember that this standby system may indeed be pressed into production in the event of a disaster. A hard disk only array may be too big of a performance drop when compared to an all-flash system. The hybrid system strikes a better performance/cost balance until a new all-flash can be brought in.
When it comes to preservation, most all-flash arrays or even hybrid arrays have no retention capabilities whatsoever. Retention is especially important when the consolidating storage system assumes the role of the file server or network attached storage (NAS). Files stored on the NAS will require specific retention and protection settings. Also, organizations with an all-flash system may want to archive data to a less expensive, capacity centric system.
IT needs to look for an all-flash array or hybrid array that has preservation capabilities built into it as well as the capability to archive, migrate data to a less expensive, on a per GB basis, storage system. If these two systems can come from the same vendor with the same interface then management of the two systems becomes much easier.
Consolidation may sometimes seem like a pipe dream to some IT professionals, but the goal can be accomplished. The important step for IT is to move beyond the basics that most unified storage systems are limited to, a focus on multi-protocol, and look for systems that can address the four P’s; performance, protection, preservation and price.