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3 min read

In Search of Smarter Storage

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IT organizations of all sizes are choking on the volumes of data they need to manage. Industry analysts projects that in 2011 alone IT organizations created and replicated 1.86 trillion gigabytes of data. Worse yet, they are projecting an 850 percent increase in the number of terabytes of data that need to be managed by 2016.

What's frustrating about this from an IT perspective is that a lot of that data will be rarely, if ever, be accessed again. It needs to be stored because one day that information might be needed. Because storage costs increase linearly, the percentage of the IT budget being consumed by storage rises each year. While the actual cost of storing a terabyte of data continues to decline, the volume of data being consumed winds up accounting for an ever increasing amount of the IT budget.

What's needed is a new approach to managing data. Rather than continuing to throw dollars at the data storage problem IT organizations need access to storage systems that will more efficiently manage data using much less space.

The only platform that promises to do just that is the Dell Compellent storage system. It not only includes all the software required to set up policies that will dynamically move data to the most appropriate tier of storage as defined by the IT organization, it does it in a way that allows the IT organization to shrink the physical footprint of the storage environment while increasing that amount of available storage.

This is done by not only incorporating higher capacity drives, but by also driving the utilization rates of all the storage to unprecedented levels. As much as 40 to 50 percent of the disk space available in traditional storage system is wasted. The Dell Compellent platform is based on Dell Fluid Data architecture that maximizes the amount of storage space available by allowing different classes of storage technologies (NAS, SAN, JBODs, RAID arrays, etc.) to share the same infrastructure. That capability provides the ability to shrink, grow and archive volumes as needed.

What's more, Compellent is using storage virtualization to automatically optimize data across multiple storage tiers. The Dell Compellent platform differs from other approaches because it virtualizes enterprise storage at the disk level, creating a dynamic pool of shared storage resources available to all servers all the time. With read/write operations spread across all drives, multiple requests can be processed in parallel, thereby boosting system performance. The Dell Compellent approach to storage virtualization allows IT organizations to create hundreds of virtual volumes in seconds to support any application.

The Dell Compellent platform scales to support hundreds of terabytes of data using a system that makes use of thin provisioning and replication, continuous snapshots, storage virtualization and IT automation within a single system that acts more like a metadata server than a simple repository for data. As data is stored the Dell Compellent system automatically figures out where to best store that data based on the likelihood of its usage and the policies set by IT. As that data gets used less over time, the Dell Compellent system will automatically move that data to less expensive storage resources within the system, thereby freeing up more space on primary storage resources that drive application performance.

The end result is a smarter storage system that allows IT organizations to manage data at a much more granular level. In fact, Dell is not only telling customers they should buy less not more storage; it's telling customers they don't need to pay extra for the privilege of managing that data by requiring them to pay fees for a mountain of additional software licenses.

Continuing to do things the same way we have always done never results in meaningful change. What's required is fundamentally new approach to storage management that allows administrators to effectively manage volumes of data that get larger with each passing day. That can only happen when the data itself can be fluidly managed over time, as opposed to being statically deposited wherever it happens to randomly land on any given hard drive.