Data growth is being observed in every business these days and adequate practices needed for storage and retrieval of data is turning into a serious concern. In the past, say five years ago, enterprises would simply buy more storage resources like adding high end Fibre channel drives to storage array or a SAN.
But now, companies are rethinking before buying storage solutions. And this is due to the fact that high end storage is very expensive, and using top shelf storage for all data assets is no longer proving as a welcoming approach for those who are trying their best in mitigating with annual IT budgets. Additionally, companies are now required to meet regulatory and legal data storage requirements, as they must show an account for what data they have, where it is located and who is accessing it. This is where tiered storage is emerging as single means to address all these challenging changes.
Tiered storage concept is simple and that is to store corporate data onto a variety of storage media. It involves selection and implementation of storage systems, the software to manage and optimize that storage, as well as the policies and procedures needed to operate each tier.
The idea behind the implementation of tiered storage is to store important and frequently accessed data on fast and high IO storage like SSD, and move less important data to economical solutions like drives or even tape drives.
Tiered storage allows shifting less valuable data to less expensive storage media which have high storage capacities. However, this comes with a tradeoff, as shifting to larger, lower cost storage media may exhibit performance issues.
Storage performance can get improved by tiering, as the data placed on the right performance tier; will offer better service to customers. For example, corporate data when stored on single tier, will allow all network users competing for access. But when the tiers are separated, IO operations are spread out among multiple tiers. So even though SAS or SATA drives may offer lower I/O capability than FC drives, reduced competition for I/O time may actually allow for good performance at the SAS or SATA tier.
And since this also reduces the number of I/O requests arriving at FC drives, top-tier performance may also improve, which enhances the storage service experience for all users.
But the big point which needs a big elucidation is the confusion between data classification, tiered storage and information lifecycle management.
Though, data classification and tiered storage look inter-related, the two are different in practical. Data Classification is the process that identifies data and determines its value to the organization. Tiered storage is the hardware, software and processes that actually implement those data classification plans.
So, on an overall note, classification of data is pointless, until the user intends to tier the storage architecture. And it’s impossible to place the right data in the appropriate storage tiers without having first accomplished a data classification initiative.
Similarly, other technologies also influence the implementation of tiered storage. For instance, data deduplication eases storage capacity needs, as it helps in weeding out duplicate files, blocks and bytes from stored data. Thin provisioning also helps in creation of LUNs that are logically bigger than the actual storage allocated to them, allowing users to “grow-into” LUNs while only purchasing and deploying the minimum amount of storage up front.
Also technically speaking, there is no one “right” way to handle tiered storage. Implementations vary based on corporate business needs, data classification granularity and IT budgets. An enterprise may use a different storage array for each tier, while smaller organizations may mix drive types to establish multiple tiers within a single array. Some users may opt for FC and SAS drives, while other businesses may go with FC, SATA and tape.
In the end, an apparent understanding of business needs and the applications will ease the path of tiered storage implementation.
StoneFly, Inc., offers storage solutions which are enriched with storage tiering. Users opting for this company solutions will get disc based solutions powered by flash and hard drives. So, hot data also known as frequently accessed data can be put on flash and cold data or data which is not frequently accessed can be moved to hard drive.
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