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By: Matt Kozloski

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November 7th, 2018

The Top 3 Data Center Storage Systems and Setups

Modern Data Center

The amount of information in the world today is almost unfathomable, and it’s increasing at a blistering pace. Analysts estimate that 90 percent of data in existence was created only in the last two years. What’s more, research group IDC predicts that by 2025, the world will be creating 163 zettabytes (163 trillion gigabytes) of data every year.

With so much information to go around, it’s hardly surprising that the average company manages more than 160 terabytes (160,000 gigabytes) of data—enough storage space for roughly 40 billion pages of text or 360 million medium-quality images. Organizations in certain data-driven industries, such as healthcare and financial services, may far exceed these averages. 

To be maximally useful for the organization, all this information can’t simply be locked away in a vault somewhere. Users must be able to access and analyze the data they need to make smarter business decisions. In some cases, this data needs to be constantly online and available at a moment’s notice, which makes matters even more complicated.

In this article, we’ll discuss the three basic options that your business has for data center storage: traditional hard drives, high-performance all-flash storage arrays, and cutting edge converged and hyper-converged infrastructure.

All-Flash Arrays

Now that the cost of all-flash storage has significantly decreased, this is where most businesses should start the conversation for their data center. The primary advantage of all-flash arrays (AFAs) is speed: you can send and access information much faster than with traditional hard drives. Switching to AFAs is one of the easiest and most effective ways to optimize applications that make use of a database.

Another benefit of AFAs is that you may be able to get more usage out of your servers themselves. In the past, storage—not processors or memory—has been the primary bottleneck that limits the lifetime of your servers. Now that storage has become much more affordable, you may be able to keep using your servers for another year or two without maxing out your storage capacity.

Traditional Hard Drives

Spinning hard drives have been the storage option of choice for decades, and they’re still the right choice for instances where all-flash arrays would be overkill. For example, if you’ll be primarily storing large quantities of archival documents that will be accessed only infrequently, then it’s not financially practical to store them on AFAs.

In situations where you have a lot of old files to store—perhaps mainly for compliance reasons—traditional hard drives are likely still the right choice.

Despite the cost savings of traditional hard drives, small and medium-sized businesses that need both speed and storage space in different situations should consider using AFAs. This will give you a consistent data storage solution, and save you from the complications of having to support two different types of storage.

Converged and Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Converged and hyperconverged infrastructure is a game changer for the world of data storage. These systems aim to dramatically simplify your computing environment with a hybrid solution that blends data storage, computing, and networking.

Many businesses are drawn to converged infrastructure because it gives you the best of both worlds: high-performance and good value. By combining your servers and storage within a single interface, you can simplify your architecture quite a bit and perhaps free up some of the physical space that you’re renting.

Another benefit of converged infrastructure is that it can be managed using only software. Instead of micromanaging which files and data will be placed on which storage devices, you can let the software do all the work. You don’t have to do anything except add nodes when you need more computing power.

How to Select the Right Data Storage Option

When deciding among the three choices above, the first question to ask is: what kind of speed will you require for the data? If you need to have all of your data instantly at your fingertips, then an all-flash array is the obvious choice. On the other hand, if performance doesn’t need to be at a premium, you can likely get away with storing files on a traditional hard drive.

There are two things to note about converged and hyperconverged infrastructure. First, it can sometimes be more expensive than other solutions if the amount of data you have is below a “critical mass” where it makes financial sense to do so.

Second, hyperconverged solutions can dramatically increase the availability and reliability of your data. If you have a technical problem with a single storage array, then the data within that array may be temporarily inaccessible. If your data is stored on a hyperconverged solution, however, then you can more flexibly handle faults in availability because the information is spread out across different nodes and devices.

Final Thoughts

Once you’ve decided on the right data center storage solution for your business, the next question is: how will you get your data over there?

Data migration scenarios can be highly complicated if you have large amounts of data or sensitive information that needs to be protected. You should first understand what kind of data you’ll need to move, and then work with the right managed services partner to develop a well-defined data migration strategy. 

No-cost storage assessment

About Matt Kozloski

Matt is the VP, Professional Services at Kelser as well as former leader of the CT VMUG. VCDX # 194, CISSP # 526947.

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