Enterprise storage has gone through an evolution over the last couple decades. First, there was direct attached storage. Packing many disks into a RAID configuration, it was difficult to share data between applications.
Then came network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SAN). These allowed you to share storage among multiple applications in a central repository. This was essential for server virtualization efforts. As your data performance requirements increased, it forced disks to move back closer to the processor.
You now might have multiple storage arrays, direct attached storage, and possibly some data stored in the cloud. This creates silos of data. It can be hard to tell exactly what data you have. It also leads to poor utilization rates. To address these challenges, hybrid storage environments have emerged.
Here are 4 ways that you can benefit from hybrid storage:
1. Improve Storage Utilization
According to Gartner, 75% of x86 servers have been virtualized. That has driven unprecedented utilization rates. This same theory can be applied to storage. Software tools such as IBM SAN Volume Controller bring virtualization benefits to storage.
Storage virtualization allows you to pool multiple storage systems into a single volume. This replaces your storage management with a single tool regardless of the vendors that you currently support. It allows you to offer advanced thin provisioning, improve remote mirroring and replication, implement encryption to increase data security, and leverage hardware-accelerated data compression to minimize space requirements. Storage virtualization is also the key to realizing the other benefits on this list.
2. Maximize Performance
By virtualizing your storage pool, you can create massive performance gains. A major factor to that is the performance boost that you can get from flash storage. Flash has been relegated to mission-critical applications with high data performance requirements such as data analytics. This has been driven by their higher cost. That is changing. It is estimated that consumer SSDs are already approaching price parity with HDDs. Enterprise drives might not be that far behind.
For your storage environment, virtualization enables you to add flash to the front end of your storage environment. IBM has established that adding just 5% of flash storage to your environment can improve performance by 300%. Unlike some technologies, as you transition to flash storage, you are not forced to perform a fork-lift upgrade. You can gradually introduce flash in a hybrid environment and experience massive performance gains.
3. Gain Advanced Data Tiering
With your storage subsystems in a virtualized, hybrid environment, you can take advantage of some advanced management capabilities. Traditionally, data was stored based on the application that required access to it. The value put on that application dictated the storage requirements without any regard as to the value of the data.
Data tiering automates where data is stored based on its value. Data that is frequently accessed can be stored on speedier flash or high-speed disk drives. Data then can be offloaded to lower performing drives as the amount of times it is accessed decreases. Once that data is not accessed, you can archive it to tape or lower-cost cloud.
4. Streamline Storage Management
Storage virtualization systems provide you with advanced management features. These can drastically reduce the amount of time that you and your team spend managing your storage environment. You can automate functions like data tiering based on your business requirements.
Thin-provisioning across your entire storage pool also reduces the effort required to respond to user’s storage requests. You can even empower your users to provision their own storage based on their needs and your data storage policies. Now, you can focus on deriving strategic business value out of your storage.
Moving to a virtualized, hybrid storage environment provides real-world operational and business benefits. You can gain better storage utilization, reduce your storage footprint, increase performance, store data based on its value, and greatly simplify storage management.