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There and back again: Storage in the 21st Century

Enterprise Storage has not always been a sexy subject in the field of Information Technology during the span of my career. I remember that when I was completing my undergraduate IT degree, there was no concept of a “Storage 101” class. It was certainly not the most popular area, or the one that most graduates in my class wanted to pursue a career in, once they left university. (I think that title would have to go to Networking/IP, or perhaps object programming – Visual Basic and C++ were hot skillsets to have). Nor was it at the top of any lecturer’s agenda to teach to budding young pupils, so it never did make it into any course curriculum.


I also remember having an earlier release of VMware Server on my Windows laptop and not really knowing what it was for. And working in storage consulting delivery and coming across these “rogue” hosts. I didn’t understand it at the time; I remember thinking this ESX host was just another operating system - truly a storage architect’s point of view.


It was really when I started taking virtualization seriously as a subject or space I wanted to specialize in, and calling myself an enthusiast in this product called VMware, that it hit home – Storage really does matter.


To what degree it mattered was still something I was coming to terms with. Architecting a workload within a workload (Inception it would seem) proved tricky to understand and master at first. I think the best thing I did was to keep it simple to avoid complexity. This, in my opinion, is the most important rule when architecting storage for virtual environments


I eventually smartened up and purchased “Mastering VMware vSphere 4” by Scott Lowe, a fellow enthusiast who really nails it in this book. It has approximately a hundred pages on what storage means to vSphere – more than any other area in the book. This, in my eyes, really does support the notion that Storage matters, and illustrated it for me. You can follow Scott on twitter or visit his blog website here


Enterprise storage in the new age

Fast forward to 2013, and the convergence of storage and virtualization technologies is simply remarkable and astonishing.  Converged Infrastructure, and of course converged storage are recognizing this merger and calling for single architectures that scale and are simple.


Software defined architecture opens a new world for Storage,. Enter the new modern data centre, and storage is now a sexy part of this story that is on the tip of every CIO’s and CTO’s lips.


The software-defined data centre provides a unified platform encompassing automation, simplicity and flexibility as a means to deliver not just storage as a service (STaaS), but also IT as a service. We will see a slow uptake on more and more Virtual Storage Appliances delivering shared storage as a service if hardware is not readily available.  This is the industry’s response to Cloud Computing. And a lot of companies are getting on board this cloud train. In fact, IDC recently announced that they expect the value of the cloud market to increase as much as 130 percent to $43 billion in 2016.


In this context, Storage rapid provisioning will be a more automated process (leading, potentially, to the end of the storage administrator’s role, as I noted in another post) and time to market will be a key metric in how well CIOs are serving their customers – whether internal, external, or both. Providing near-instant service levels is a key critera in being a successful IT business in today’s competitive market.


So where to from here?

Back again. Keeping things simple is still job number one. Architecting storage for cloud environments still requires a simple approach, otherwise scalability (one of the core fundamentals of a cloud environment) will prove very difficult as time goes on and demand grows.


On a final note, I would love to discuss storage as a service with you and the variety of challenges and virtues you are seeing in your cloud storage business model – is it working? Or not? Let me know in an email


Also feel free to comment on this post below.


Read more about HP Converged Storage Solutions.


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| ‎01-25-2013 07:02 PM

What do you think about the role of storage class memory (static memory) in storage futures?


I heard that some content providers/hosters are looking to move much of their rarely accessed content to static memory just because they were tired of paying the price to have the drives spinning. The providers can't put it out to tape, because no one wants to wait the time it would take to get their three year old pictures.


Jack James (anon) | ‎01-29-2013 08:53 AM

I don't think your definition of the software defined data center is not very clear. Can you explain. My definition is completelY different. You seem to be describing cloud Computing. These two are related but not the same. 

andre | ‎01-29-2013 09:47 AM

Hi Charlie,


Storage Class memory has it's place, I wouldnt think acting as an archive repositiory would be one of them, but nonetheless thats an interesting point you make. Agree on the tape restoration time, this has traditionally always been a problem when looking at backing up and archiving up to tape.


What I really like is Spin up\Spin Down capability in the storage tiers,  Spindles "turning on" to serve a request and then spinning down and shutting off once a certain period of time.


Unfortunately I dont think there are a lot of arrays out there that have a good story about this capability. Perhaps it is something we will see develop in the short term.


andre | ‎01-29-2013 10:08 AM

Hi Jack,


To me, the Software defined data centre is part of an answer to approaching cloud computing and a faster way to deliver services than your traditional method of shipping new hardware in and provisioning. I think of it as more of an enabler rather than defining cloud computing.

Our virtual storage appliance (StoreVirtual) provides an easy way to provision storage rapidly through a software appliance to service requests quickly. 


The post above wasnt mean to provide any definitions as such, but I'd love for you to share your definition or thoughts on the SDDC.  Its a topic I am quite passionate about.

Tan(anon) | ‎02-07-2013 10:03 AM



I have just read your post and I don't understand what you are trying to articulate. Are you saying that storage has evolved throughout the years and now in the 21st century it is back to where it's earlier beginings? 


Whether you call it SDDC or whatever it is clear that the shift in how IT is delivered is/has changed. My view of SDDC is it is an enabler for cloud computing or better put XaaS.


Cheers, Tan


PS. It's been a while :smileyhappy:

andre | ‎02-14-2013 09:35 PM

Hi Tan,


Thanks for reading first of all!   What I was articulating was that storage design (as I was schooled in during my earlier career days) was architected on a per host basis - keeping it simple back then was the key to a successful solution in my eyes.


The "back again" statement refers to keeping things simple now that things are evolving and we as storage architect types are now architecting for hybrid\public\private cloud solutions and providing storage as a service rather than on a per host basis..


Hope this makes sense and thanks for following!


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About the Author
Andre is a Principal Solutions Architect specialising in enterprise infrastructure consulting with particular focus on enterprise storage, ...
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