An Australian Journalist who is well known and one of the doyens of IT News coined the term “Storage is Snorage” about 10 years ago! For the most part he has been right! EMC and the industry have enhanced the hardware by ‘riding the price/performance’ curves of the underlying components… and disks have grown 1000x and processors 10 000x faster and RAM cheaper, However until recently, the basic architecture has not really changed!!
But that has all changed and two new architectures reach prime-time this year!
The first is scale-out, yes I know Isilon has been in the market for over 5 years, but in more niche application areas. Now two trends are merging, mainstream computing environments are experiencing massive growth in unstructured data and the traditional architectures are creaking, and secondly Isilon has ‘Enterprise’ features.
A quick word of warning when you look around, the value is in the architecture not the fact that there is a single file system! Why I say this is that whenever there is a major advance in technology, you get the ‘horseless carriages’! People who take the old technology and substitute some-part of it and think it’s all new.. (Or less kindly; you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig!) The reason I put this point in is that ‘traditional’ storage with its RAID groups and LUN size limits, (or aggregates), is the source of the management nightmare when you scale to the PByte level. So putting a wrapper or layer above this does not detract from the management, etc, overheads. So to do Scale-Out, you need to design from the ground up.
Talking about ground up design, it brings me to the second exciting architecture this year, the All-Flash array. Once again all storage designed before this had one design consideration, ‘locality matters!” Because of the mechanical drives the position of the head is a major determinant of performance and through put. (Throw random requests at a disk drive and it will perform like a stuck pig, order them and it screams!)
Now if you start from scratch and design around a storage medium that has no locality, (no penalty for writing or reading form anywhere). Major change in design. Secondly, RAID, well that is an absurd notion, there is no ‘DISK’ involved, just an address space!