Thursday, November 21, 2013

Is Flash the Future of the Datacenter?

Increasingly, corporations are turning to flash-based solid state drives (SSDs) to improve the performance of their datacenters because they eliminate bottlenecks in system performance that are inescapable with traditional mechanical disk drives.

While the speed of reading and writing data with mechanical disk drives is limited by the nature of the spinning mechanical drives, flash-based SSDs instead rely on an embedded processor to perform these operations. As a result, SSDs offer lower latency and the ability to transact many times more IOPs than physically possible on drives. Not only do SSDs offer speed and performance, but they also offer energy efficiency and reliability.

The issue with flash-based SSDs has always been the price tag. Their performance advantages do not come cheap. However, flash drives have been coming down at a rate of 30% per year, making them a more affordable option. Additionally, these two drive types are not mutually exclusive – you can use a mix of SSDs and HDDs in your datacenter. This delivers a best of breed technology, the performance of flash and the cost-effectiveness of traditional disk drives.

When using a hybrid SSD and HDD combination, it is important to segregate your data by its usage characteristics. Your applications with critical performance requirements and “hot data” can be stored on the flash-based SSDs, while applications with less critical performance requirements and “cold data” can be easily stored on HDDs. The benefits of this technique can be seen with Nimble Storage arrays.

Furthermore, key software vendors have recently added SSD support, including Microsoft and VMware. Microsoft added SSD support to the new Windows Server 2012 R2 and VMware has added enterprise flash storage support to vSphere 5.5 with the new vSphere Flash Read Cache.

So, is flash the future of the datacenter? It certainly seems to be with more and more enterprises investing in the technology. The biggest players in the industry have adopted flash. And now that the expense of the technology is decreasing at a steady rate, the newfound affordability of the technology will only help to accelerate its rise.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Importance of Storage in a Virtualized Environment

Virtualization is proving to be an unstoppable force in the IT world, the result of a more software-defined approach to the datacenter. While the majority of enterprises begin virtualization at the server level, it is critical that their storage platform be optimized to match up with the needs of a virtualized IT infrastructure.

While server virtualization brings increased performance and management to the datacenter, it is critical to also consider storage because of the additional workload that virtualization creates versus a traditional I/O model.  Inadequate storage performance for virtualized workloads negatively impacts an enterprise's entire data infrastructure and puts a significant strain on their IT staff and end users
As a result, virtualization has created a need for storage specifically designed to handle its unique challenges, including insufficient data protection, increased complexity and management, and inadequate performance.

Virtualized environments can suffer from insufficient data protection because of the need for VM-level data protection and availability, which traditional storage architectures were not designed to provide.  Storage based snapshots are more efficient than software based snapshots; however, storage based snapshots require integration with the operating system or hypervisor to properly quiesce the data.

One of the benefits of virtualization is making IT departments more agile with centralized and unified management, so storage solutions should integrate with the virtualization management utility, creating a single pane of glass from which to manage the entire infrastructure.

As previously mentioned, inadequate performance is the heavy hitter when it comes to virtualization challenges for storage.  Many consider flash to be the best solution to this challenge, but all flash solutions are extremely expensive and do not have the proven track record of traditional spinning disks. One solution is to purchase a hybrid flash storage platform that provides the performance of flash storage with the reliability of spinning disks.

Nimble Storage is a hybrid storage solution developed from the ground up as such, unlike traditional storage vendors that have attempted to attach flash storage to their traditional way of thinking.  Nimble has a strong relationship with VMware and a deep integration with vSphere and vCenter for storage based snapshots, array based replication with VMware’s Site Recovery Manager, and a single pane of glass for management using Nimble’s vCenter plug-in.

The lesson to be learned from all of this is, don’t get caught up in the momentum of virtualization and lose sight of how important storage is to the performance of your environment.  If your storage isn’t up to snuff, it will be impossible to achieve the full benefits offered by your newly virtualized environment.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Why We Became a CommVault Authorized Reseller

In our search to provide our customers with cost-effective, fully featured tools for business continuity, we’ve landed on CommVault as our flagship data protection and management solution. And we’re not the only ones drinking the CommVault Kool-Aid. CommVault is a proven leader in the field of data management, winning numerous accolades for their products, including the Disaster Recovery and Backup Product of the Year Award at the 2013 Storage Awards.

Some of the top reasons that we’ve selected CommVault:
-    Recognized as a “Leader” in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for three years running
-    Excellent integration and synergy with Nimble Storage, our lead storage partner
-    Excellent integration and synergy with VMware, our lead virtualization partner
-    Seamlessly manages both virtual and physical environments

Another big reason that we’re such a fan of CommVault is their flagship product - Simpana software. Simpana is built on a single platform and unifying code base for integrated data and information management. This provides a very efficient and consistent user interface with seamless inter-module communication and interoperability.

Some of the other CommVault Simpana software features and capabilities that we find compelling are: broad storage array and application support, converged backup and archive functions for improved efficiency, highly efficient de-duplication and replication of backups, workflow automation, multi-tenancy support, and a customized web-based reporting capability with dashboards.