While computing has become increasingly complex, mobile centric and platform independent, it stands to reason that storage systems, too, must also evolve. This is true not only as a means of keeping up with the changing requirements of today’s applications, but also as a way to make the data center simpler to manage, more cost effective to scale, and better aligned with business priorities. One increasingly popular solution for doing this is unified storage.
Unified storage is a powerful, hardware or software-defined solution that can handle multiple data types as a single storage pool. Based on our experience guiding customers to the storage solution that best fits their needs, we feel that there are five key reasons to consolidate storage into a unified platform. Here they are
A Single Point of Management and Administration
By bringing block- and file-based data together onto a single platform, unified storage frees administrators from having to manage multiple sets of tools and pools of disparate storage. In addition, the ability to read and write both data types via any protocol, without the need for conversion, offers tremendous flexibility when it comes to data-based workflows. This can be valuable in a number of ways.
Let’s say a customer service representative creates a dataset that is written to a unified storage platform via an application API. The same data set can be accessed in file form by a marketing user who wants to run a report on customer satisfaction. In many cases, unified storage is helping to expedite data access by allowing it to be written and read in the correct format for the task at hand – without converting it.
When it comes to data, one thing is certain – growth is inevitable. But scaling storage in support of this growth can be complex, especially when different platforms are needed to support file- and block- based data. Without unified storage, one system may be fully utilized while another has plenty of capacity, but since the two are not interchangeable the available capacity does little good. This means additional storage must be purchased and provisioned, consuming precious budget and valuable time.
With a unified storage system, storage administrators benefit from one dashboard that shows how much free capacity exists across the entire storage pool. And more importantly, any available capacity in the pool can be provisioned to support either data type, so it’s fair game no matter which application needs it or which protocol it uses to connect. Unified platforms give you maximum control to manage your storage growth with ease and efficiency
Less Hardware to Maintain
Historically, increased volumes of data have contributed to the steadily expanding hardware footprint we’re seeing in today’s data centers. This has led to higher operational expenses when it comes to the floor space, power, cooling, and management resources that are needed to support the ever expanding infrastructure.
Unified storage can reduce hardware requirements by combining separate storage platforms, such as NAS for file-based storage and disk arrays for block-based storage, into a single device. And generally speaking, the less hardware deployed, the less maintenance and management it requires, saving costs and freeing up staff for more strategic endeavors.
Valuable Feature Sets
While the hardware costs of unified storage systems are in the same ballpark as deploying separate systems, a good unified system offers advanced features and functionality that can improve the overall return on storage investments. Data encryption and access controls, for example, can help reduce security risks by protecting data when it’s at rest and in motion, while ensuring that data can only be accessed by trusted users. In addition, replication and tiering capabilities allow storage administrators to more effectively manage data across multiple platforms, including the cloud, while maximizing storage efficiency throughout the data lifecycle
Perhaps the greatest opportunity for unified storage comes when an application that was written exclusively for one type of storage can now “see” them all. This can breathe new life into a legacy application, allowing it to work with file-, block- and object-based data, even though it may have been written only to work with files. While this is feasible without a unified storage platform, the application would need significant re-coding to pull it off.
Not only does unified storage make applications more powerful, it liberates them as well. With the ability to easily point to file, block, and object storage, applications are no longer locked into a specific storage type. And that means data center professionals are no longer locked in either.
Indeed, more and more companies are seeking out a hybrid storage solution that utilizes public or private cloud for file, block, and object storage as they seek to address scalability challenges. In our next blog, we’ll discuss the most compelling reasons to make your unified storage system cloud compatible.