Moderator: Peter Burris
Analyst: Robin Harris
Clustered storage technologies have been available for several decades. However, the publicity surrounding the inexpensive, highly scalable clustered storage architectures implemented by Web giants Google and Amazon to support their specialized storage requirements has created new excitement about clustered storage technologies. This interest will only gain intensity in mid-year 2008 when EMC is expected to enter this emerging market with a combination of products code named Hulk (hardware) and Maui (software).
The fundamental feature of clustered storage is its emphasis on storage capacity scalability for unstructured storage and cost optimization of those storage spaces using lower cost components than are normal in large arrays. The trade off is lower seek and I/O per second performance.
The cost of storage on large arrays is as high as $20/GB, while on some clustered systems it is as cheap as $1/GB. This price differential, high scalability and lower read performance makes it an attractive solution for storing the explosion of unstructured data created by users of organizations of all sizes.
As regulatory and business requirements for keeping large quantities of data evolve over the next few years, the need to support “Webscale” storage spaces will only grow in many organizations. The key question is not if clustered storage systems represent a viable technology set but rather how users will gain access to the differentiated price points associated with those systems. Some users no doubt will encounter the need for Web-scale computing faster than others, driven by particular business characteristics that feature greater growth in unstructured data. These users are likely to deploy clustered systems alongside more traditional technologies, including very large arrays. Other users may not encounter the same pressure as quickly and may turn to alternative means to source the pricing benefits of clustered storage, perhaps through exploitation of storage-related services from storage hosting companies.
A key challenge users will face as they put forward plans to appropriately deploy their storage investments will be to identify the right degree of scale in their various storage and application needs to ensure they are getting the right storage technology for the right price. This is where EMC's expected announcement becomes interesting. EMC is likely to present a coherent vision of the marriage of controller-oriented arrays for high throughput and clustered storage arrays for applications with high scalability but lower data access speed requirements. It will take a few years for users to develop the right rule-of-thumb to envision the appropriate mix of storage technologies, but it is increasingly evident that clustered storage will emerge as an important option.
Action Item: Users should gain familiarity with clustered storage technologies, and specifically the different price points, scalability, and performance levels they may offer, and start to use classification and other strategies to discretely organize their applications, data, information, and storage needs to take advantage of clustered storage technologies as they gain favor through multiple sourcing options.