Hi Guys! Remember me! I’m apparently the one who upset some of you, enlightened others; and the rest of you.. well, you drove a lot of traffic here to get my blog to even beat out EMC’s main website as the primary source for information on "Unified Storage" (And for that, I appreciate it :))
In case any of you forgot some of those "target" posts, here they are for your reference! but I’m not here to start a fight! I’m here to educate and to direct my focus on not what this previously OVERLY discussed Unified Storage Guarantee was or is, but instead to drive down in to what Unified Storage will really bring to bear. So, without further adieu!
What is Unified Storage?
I’ve seen a lot of definitions of what it is, quite frankly a lot of stupid definitions too. (My GOD I hate stupid definitions!) But what does it mean when you Unify to you and me? I could go on and on about the various ‘definitions’ of what it really is (and I even started WRITING that portion of it!) but instead I’m going to scrap all of that so I do not end up on my own list of ‘stupid definitions’ and instead will define Unified Storage at it’s simplest terms.
A unified storage system merges NAS and SAN. Optimized for performance and interoperability, the system simultaneously stores both file data and blocks of application data in virtually any operating environment
You can put your own take and spin on it, but at it’s guts that is seemingly what the basics of a "Unified Storage" system are; nothing special about it, NAS and SAN (hey, lots of people do that right?!) You bet they do! And this is by no way the definitive definition on what “Unified Storage” is, and frankly that is not my concern either. So taking things to the next level; now that we have a baseline of what it takes to ‘get the job done’, now it’s time to evaluate the Cost of Living in a Unified Storage environment.
Unified Storage Architecture Cost of Living
I get it. No really I do. And I’m sure by now you’re tired of the conversation of ‘uniqueness’ focused on the following core areas:
- Support for Mixed Clients
- Support for multiple types (tiers) of disk
- Simplified Provisioning
- Thin Provisioning
- Improving Utilization
All of these items are simply a FACT and an expectation when it comes to a Unified Platform. (Forget unified, a platform in general) Lack of support of multiple tiers, locking down to a single client, complicated provisioning which can only be done fat which makes you lose out on utilization and likely is a waste of time – That my friend is the cost of living. You’re not going to introduce a wasteful fat obsolete system and frankly, I’m not sure of any (many) vendors who are actually delivering services which don’t meet on multiple of these criteria; So the question I’m asking is… Why do we continue to discuss these points? I do not go to a car dealership and say “You know, I’m expecting a transmission in this car, you have a transmission right?” And feel free to replace transmission with tires and other things you just flat out EXPECT. It’s time to take the conversation to the next level though; because if you’ve ever talked to me you know how I feel about storage. “There is no inherent value of storage in and of itself without context or application.” Thus… You don’t want spinning rust just for the sake to have it spin, no you want it to store something for you, and it is with that you need to invest in Perfection.
Unified Storage Perfection
What exactly is the idea of Unified Storage Perfection? It is an epic nirvana whereby we shift from traditional thinking and takes NAS and SAN out of the business of merely rusty spindles and enable and engage the business to earn its keep.
Enterprise Flash Disks
Still storage, yet sexy in it’s own right. Why? First of all, it’s FAST OMFG FLASH IS SO FAST! And second of all, it’s not spinning, so it’s not annoying like the latest and greatest SAS, ATA or FC disk! But what makes this particular implementation of EFD far sexier than simple consumer grade SSD’s is the fact that these things will guarantee you a consistent speed and latency through and through. I mean, sure it’s nice that these things can take the sheer number of FC disks you’d need to run an aggressive SQL server configuration and optimize the system to perform, but it goes beyond that.
Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST)
Think back to that high performance SQL workload you had a moment ago, there might come a time in the life of the business where your performance needs change; Nirvana comes a knocking and with the power of FAST enables you to dynamically, non-disruptively move from one tier of Storage (EFD, FC, SATA) to another, so you are guaranteed not only investment protection but scalability which grows and shrinks as your business does. Gone are the days of ‘buy for what we might use one day’ and welcome are the days of Dynamic and Scalable business.
Wow, is this the triple whammy or what? Building upon the previous two points, this realm of Perfection is able to take the performance and speed of Enterprise Flash Disks and the concept of tiering your disks to let you use those same existing EFD disks to extend your READ and WRITE cache on your array! FAST Cache accelerates performance to address unexpected workload spikes. FAST and FAST Cache are a powerful combination, unmatched in the industry, that provides optimal performance at the lowest possible cost. (Yes I copied that from a marketing thingie, but it’s true and is soooooo cool!)
FAST + FAST Cache = Unified Storage Performance Nirvana
So, let’s put some common sense on this then, because this is no joke, nor is it marketing BS. You assign EFD’s to a specific workload you want to guarantee a certain speed and a certain response time (Win). You have unpredictable workloads who may need to be fast some times, but may be slow other times on quarterly of yearly basis’s, so you leverage FAST to move that data around, but that’s your friend when you can PREDICT what is going to happen. What about when it is slow most of the time, but then on June 29th you make a major announcement that you were not expecting to hit as hard as it did, and BAM! Your system goes in the tank because data sitting on FC or SATA couldn’t handle the load. Hello FAST Cache, how I love you so. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE EFD’s and I wish all of my data could sit on them (At home a lot of it does ;)) and I have massive desire for FAST because I CAN move my workload around based upon predictable or planned patterns (Marry me!) But FAST Cache is my superman, because he is there to save the day when I least expected it, he caches my reads when BOOM I didn’t know it was coming, but more importantly he holds my massive load of WRITES which come in JUST as unexpectedly. So for you naysayers or just confused ones who wonder why you’d have one vs the other (vs) the other; Hopefully this example use-case is valuable. Think about it in terms of your business, you could get away with one or the other, or all three… Either way, you’re a winner.
Block Data Compression
EMC is further advancing its storage efficiency innovation as the first storage provider to introduce block data compression, by allowing customers to compress inactive data and reclaiming valuable storage capacity— data footprints can be reduced by up to 50 percent. A common use case would be compressing inactive data once EMC FAST software has moved that data to the most cost-effective storage tier. Block data compression joins EMC’s existing capabilities, including thin provisioning and data deduplication, to automatically and transparently maximize storage utilization.
Yea, I DID copy that verbatim from a Press Release – And do you know why? Because it’s right! Even addresses a pretty compelling use-case too! So think about it a moment. Does this apply to you? I’d never compress ALL of my data (reminisces back to the days of DoubleSpace where let’s just say, for any of us who lived it… those were interesting times ;)) But think about the volume of data which you have sitting on Primary Storage which is inactive and otherwise wasting space when it continues sitting un-accessed and consuming maximum capacity! But this is more than just about that data type, unlike some solutions this it not an all or nothing.
Think if you could choose to compress on demand! Compress say… your virtual machine right out of vCenter! But wait there’s more! And there’s so much more to say on this, let alone the things which are coming.. I don’t want to reveal what is coming, so I’ll let Mark Twomey do it where he did it here: Storage Services for Clariion Storage Pool LUNs
What does all of this mean for me and Unified Storage?!
Whoa, hey now! What do you mean what does all of this mean?! Are you cutting me short? Yes. Yes I am. :) There are some cool things coming, which I cannot talk about yet… and not to mention some of all of the new stuff coming in Q3 – But things I was talking about… that’s stuff I can talk about –TODAY- there’s only even better things and cake coming tomorrow :)
I can fill this with videos, decks, resources, references, Unisphere and every thing under the sun (You let me know if you really want that.. I’ve done that in the past as well) But ideally, I want you to make your own decision, come to your own conclusions.. What does this mean for you? Stop asking “What is Unified Storage” and start asking “What value can my business derive from technologies in order to save money, save time, save waste!” I’ll try to avoid writing yet another article on this subject unless you so demand it! I look forward to all of your comments and feedback! :)