What is Element-based storage?
Element-based storage is a new concept in data storage that packages caching controllers, self-healing packs of disk drives, intelligent power/cooling, and non-volatile protection into a single unit to create a building-block foundation for scaling storage capacity and performance. By encapsulating key technology elements into a functional ‘storage blade’, storage capability – both performance and capacity - can scale linearly with application needs. This building-block approach removes the complexity of frame-based SAN management and works in concert with application-specific function that resides in host servers (OSes, hypervisors and applications themselves).
How are Storage Elements Managed?
Storage elements are managed by interfacing with applications running on host servers (on top of either OSes or hypervisors) and working in conjunction with application function, via either direct application control or Web Services/REST communication. For example, running a virtual desktop environment with VMware or Citrix, or a highly-available database environment with Oracle’s ASM or performing database-level replication and recovery with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 – the hosts OSes, hypervisors, and applications control their own storage through embedded volume management and data movement. The application can directly communicate with the storage element via REST, which is the open standard technique called out in the SNIA Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI) specification. CDMI forms the basis for cloud storage provisioning and cloud data movement/access going forward.
The main benefits of the element-based approach are:
- Significantly better performance – more transactions per unit time, faster database updates, more simultaneous virtual servers or desktops per physical server.
- Significantly improved reliability – self-healing, intelligent elements.
- Simplified infrastructure – use storage blades like DAS.
- Lower costs – significantly reduced opex, especially maintenance and service.
- Reduced business risk – avoiding storage vendor lock-in by using heterogeneous application/hypervisor/OS functions instead of array-specific functions.
Action Item: Organizations are looking to simplify infrastructure, and an application-centric strategy is one approach that has merit. Practitioners should consider introducing storage elements as a means to support application-oriented storage strategies and re-architecting infrastructure for the next decade