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Eight technologies for better data storage

Managing data stockpiles can be tough. These technologies can help ease the difficulty.

  • Storage isn't the jazziest of networking technologies out there, but that doesn't mean there aren't some pretty cool things you can do with it. These eight technologies offer ease of management, scalability, optimization, cost-effectiveness and more.

  • Storage-as-a-service, that is. Skip the hassle of data backups, e-mail management and content archiving by handing over those responsibilities to a storage-as-a-service provider. Storage companies of every ilk are rolling out online data-backup services, including biggies EMC, HP, IBM and Symantec. You'll pay a monthly fee, but won't have to buy backup software, hardware and media. Not bad for no-hassle data protection.

  • Just as it has for the server infrastructure, virtualization promises wondrous things for storage. For instance, viewing storage as a pool makes managing, backing up, archiving and migrating data far less complex than when storage is aligned with physical devices. You do have to know where you want your storage virtualization to reside, however. You can use a host-based system from Brocade Communications Systems or Symantec, for example, as part of the fabric with an appliance from EMC or IBM, or in the array, as such vendors as HP and 3Par offer.

  • If you're delivering services over the Web, think about enlisting the help of a cloud-storage provider like Amazon.com or Nirvanix. With cloud storage, data resides on the Web, located across storage systems rather than at a designated corporate or hosting site. Cloud-storage providers balance server loads and move data among various data centers to ensure that information is stored close -- and therefore delivered quickly -- to where it is used. As one Nirvanix customer says, cloud storage is like having your own hard drive out on the Internet.

  • For structured data and block storage, you've got your storage-area network. For unstructured (file) data and file storage environments, consider a file-area network, which can provide centralized, heterogeneous, enterprisewide network file management and control. Like a SAN, a FAN potentially comprises many technologies: file virtualization, WAN optimization and acceleration, data classification, global namespace, and information life-cycle management and automated tiering. The key is that, with a FAN the access to file data is decoupled from the data's physical location. Making changes becomes easier, as does management. F5 Networks is one fan of FAN.

  • If you have a lot of long-term, persistent data that needs storing (and who doesn't?), you might consider MAID, which stands for Massive Array of Idle Disks. A MAID system, such as the Revolution system by Copan Systems, houses a large number of drives, the majority of which usually are powered off. A disk spins up only when an application requests data stored on it -- hence, saving on energy consumption besides using storage more efficiently.

  • If you've got high performance requirements for some applications, consider creating a "Tier 0" of storage. The tier, built using new, enterprise-class flash drives, provides a place to cache frequently accessed blocks of data for speedier processing. You can build your Tier 0 storage using such drives from start-up Pliant Technology or EMC, which added such an option to its Symmetrix DMX-4 arrays earlier this year. EMC says its Enterprise Flash Drives will deliver the same number of I/O operations per second as 30 15,000-rpm, 300GB drives. Yowza!

  • Maximize your resource use and minimize cost with thin provisioning, which reserves storage capacity only when applications write data to disk. In other words, there's no more allocating storage to an application just in case it might one day need the capacity. You can get thin provisioning from such companies as 3Par, Compellent, DataCore Software, Dell EqualLogic, LeftHand Networks and Network Appliance.

  • This is sort of a no-brainer, at least when you're storing data in a traditional way. But sometimes people forget about snapshots when they're working with virtual storage. "Often overlooked, this is a good feature for making virtual backup easy, enabling migration, and for development teams, which can have an endless number of identical copies of production data to test new revisions against," says Mark Peters, analyst at Enterprise Strategies Group.

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