What is Storage?

Storage is one of the most over used and least understood terms in the ICT industry. In its simplest storage is basically any device that can hold long term data, eg: hard disk.

Consolidated Storage

In today’s modern networks multiple servers is the normal way of life, it’s not uncommon to have ten or twelve servers in a single environment. All of these servers require hard drives to hold information and also have enough spare capacity to allow for any new data. As you can imagine this can mean having a lot of spare disk capacity in your servers.

So where is the Magic?

In the past, because we have had single servers doing a single job and each of these servers have had their own local disk installed, we have been able to configure these disks in a fashion suited best to the job of which they have to preform. We would set up a Database servers disks completely differently to a file and print server.

The problem is that when you have so many servers relying on the central pool of storage, the consolidated storage must be planned very carefully because of load. Different types of physical disks have different performance characterististics. When we talk in terms of consolidated storage we are more interested in raw throughput rather than outright speed.

Drive performance is measured in IOPS (Input / Outputs Per Second) and if we look at a standard workstation hard disk type (SATA) they tend to have a throughput of around 80 IOPS. On the other hand server type hard disk (SAS) have an average throughput of around 160 IOPS (roughly twice the throughput of workstation disks. Finally we are just starting to see an influx of Solid State Drives (SSD’s) These disks are essentially memory and can have a IOPS rating of up to 12,000!

Consolidated Storage is also required for high availability. If you have multiple servers the ability for more than one server to access the same storage is coined “shared storage”. Because multiple servers can see the same data, they have the ability to move servers or applications between physical hardware seamlessly. We have seen a huge upturn in this requirement due to increase in popularity of virtualisation.

Logical Solutions have experience in helping design the best storage solution for your situation. Storage by its very nature is complex and needs to be designed for every different situation. We can help you avoid the mistakes many others have made.

From flash memory to network-area storage, small businesses have more storage choices than ever before. They range from portable flash memory thumb drives to network-attached storage systems that can be located physically anywhere on a network. Here’s a more detailed look at some of your options:

Flash memory thumb drives: These type of drives are particularly appealing to mobile professionals because they consume little power, are small enough to fit on a keychain and have no moving parts. You can connect a flash memory thumb drive to your laptop’s USB port to back up files on the road. Some USB thumb drives even provide encryption to protect your files should the drive get lost or stolen. Some let you store your Outlook data (such as recent e-mails and calendar items), Internet Explorer bookmarks, files and even some desktop applications. That way, you can leave your laptop at home and just plug the USB drive into a borrowed computer.

External hard drives. A simple and relatively inexpensive way to add more storage is to connect an external hard disk drive to your computer. External hard drives directly connected to PCs have several disadvantages, however. Any files stored on the drive but not elsewhere need to be backed up. Also, if you travel for work and need access to files on an external drive, you’ll have to take the drive with you or remember to copy the required files to a USB thumb drive, your laptop’s internal drive, a CD or some other storage media. Finally, in the event of a fire or other catastrophe at your place of business, your data will not be protected.

Online storage: Services that provide remote storage and backup over the internet offer businesses a number of compelling benefits. By backing up your most important files to a secure, remote server, you’re protecting the data stored at your place of business. You can easily share large files with clients, partners and others by providing them with password-protected access to your online storage service, thereby eliminating the need to e-mail those large files. And in most cases, you can log into your account from any computer using a web browser–a great way to retrieve files when you’re away from your PC. Remote storage–especially during an initial backup session–can be slow, however: It’s only as quick as the speed of your network access to that storage. For extremely large files, you may have to invest in higher speed network access.

Network-attached storage: (NAS) provides fast, simple, reliable access to data in an IP networking environment. NAS solutions are suitable for small and mid-sized businesses needing large amounts of economical storage that multiple users can share over a network. And given that many small businesses lack IT departments, NAS solutions are easy to deploy, centrally manage and consolidate.

NAS solutions can be as basic as a single hard drive with an Ethernet port or built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. Moving up in sophistication, NAS solutions can also provide additional USB and FireWire ports, enabling you to connect external hard drives to scale your business’s overall storage capacity. An NAS solution may also offer print-server capabilities, which lets multiple users easily share a single printer.

An NAS solution may include multiple hard drives in a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) level 1 array or level 5. In plain English, a RAID level 1 storage system includes two or more equivalent hard drives (such as two 250GB drives) in one network-connected device or Raid 5 for higher redundancy. Files written to the main drive are automatically written to the second drive as well (In Raid 5 array one hard drive sits there as a spare to kick in if one of the other drives fails and array rebuilts itself automatically). This automated redundancy means that if the first hard drive dies, you’ll still have access to all your applications and files on the second drive.

NAS solutions can also offload file serving from other servers on your network, thereby increasing performance. A NAS system allows you to consolidate storage, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing costs; simplify storage administration and data backup and recovery; and allow for easy scaling to meet growing storage requirements.

Storage Area Network: SAN is a network specifically dedicated to the task of transporting data for storage and retrieval. SAN architectures are alternatives to storing data on disks directly attached to servers or storing data on Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices which are connected through general purpose networks. Storage Area Networks are traditionally connected over Fibre Channel networks. Storage Area Networks have also been built using iSCSI (internet small computer systems interface) technology.

Fibre channel SANs offer the benefit of centralized backup, device management from multiple servers, and management of these multiple storage devices. In addition, centralized management helps in isolating, identifying, diagnosing, and recovering from load management problems all from either a centrally managed console or any server on the loop. This powerful solution also offers improved fault tolerance.

The SAN also improves the concept of data sharing. Although a typical LAN enables applications and end users to access data held in a central location, the SAN moves that data onto a much faster infrastructure. This allows multiple computers to transfer large files concurrently at rates comparable to locally attached disks over the SAN without adversely affecting the corporate LAN.

SAN Summary

IT environments today are plagued with small backup windows, overburdened LANs, databases that increase in size daily, and high availability requirements for mission-critical applications.

To further complicate matters, the administrator is besieged with managing volumes of data and the everyday obstacles to effective storage management, such as viruses, hardware failure, faulty tapes, and more. SANs represent a huge stride toward a cost-effective solution, providing increased performance, fault tolerance, and scalability for long-term growth.

In addition, SANs provide total cost of ownership benefits such as:
Minimized down time
Improved LAN performance
Ability to connect to existing LANs
Reduced administrative costs
Leveraging of existing hardware
Improved fault tolerance
Maximized storage resources through load balancing
Total SAN management.

SAN awareness today is becoming widespread. As more and more organizations integrate SANs into their environments, they need reassurance that their current storage management solution takes full advantage of both existing storage technology and SAN technology.