Tim Wright, Technical Support Manager, Storage Products Division, Toshiba Europe GmbH, discusses the evolution of the digital universe the future of enterprise storage
Enterprise storage is entering an era of transformation. Business data management is becoming an elaborate task, and organisations are at the tipping point of a vast data challenge. The evolution of the digital universe is commonly cited as the core catalyst for this shifting storage landscape, as it continues to expand at a staggering pace. Analysts at IDC estimate that the amount of data created or replicated in 2011 will be 1.8 zettabytes. And, it’s expected to grow by a factor of nine in the next five years – the storage equivalent to 57.5 billion 32GB iPads or 200 billion high definition movies. The figures are difficult to comprehend.
Capacity is undoubtedly a primary cause for concern, with enterprise IT infrastructures bursting at the seams to contain vast volumes of information. As this explosive data universe continues to evolve, a new layer of complexity has emerged for organisations when it comes to data management and storage. Volume is now just one in a list of things to worry about when it comes to effective enterprise data storage.
The gradual consumerisation of IT in the workplace in recent years has caused a surge of new data content into the business IT system. Audio, video, word documents and presentations merge with reams of real-time data generated by social networks, new communications tools and mobile-generated data. And while the business environment is undeniably enriched and more productive as a result, IT departments are scrambling to create order from this data chaos as users demand instant access to the data they need, at the moment they need it.
Most significantly, the challenge posed by this increased layer of data complexity is no longer just an issue for the IT department. With governments across Europe increasingly turning their attention to the matter of enterprise data regulation, investment in the right storage and data retrieval technologies can mean escaping a hefty regulatory fine. With businesses increasingly required by law to account for all data stored on the enterprise IT infrastructure, the pressure is on to deliver carefully controlled access when it comes to company data.
As the enterprise takes stock of the challenges associated with data volume and complexity, a further hurdle is putting pressure on IT departments. With Europe’s businesses tightening their belts in a bid to weather the global economic downturn, keeping spending in line with tighter budgets is front of mind as IT departments face pressure to meet business needs but reduce spending.
Set against this chaotic data backdrop, with so many factors at play, investment in the right technology has never been more important. With digital data acting as the lifeblood for businesses today, storage is one of the most performance-critical elements of the enterprise IT setup.
In this dynamic digital landscape, businesses are evolving their storage strategies to meet this challenge with intelligent technology application. Tiered storage is one of the most effective means for businesses looking to tackle the challenges of data access speeds, while reducing costs through reduced power consumption and heat. By implementing a tiered storage approach, organisations can benefit with an increased level of sophistication when it comes to data storage and retrieval.
Tiered storage means the automated management of data, to the most effective form of storage depending on cost, performance, availability, security and recovery requirements. The tiered structure controls access demands to different types of data, graduating from high demand data in tier zero, decreasing to the lowest as you move through the tiered system. With this flexible structure, businesses can also bolster security capabilities with encryption-enabled enterprise Hard Disk Drives (HDDs).
The typical tiered storage architecture will look something like this:
Tier 0 – the need for speed
All businesses depend on a selection of mission critical datasets for everyday performance – the company’s most needed information, ranging from database assets to email or financial information. Invariably this data is regularly accessed by a high number of users. Enterprise Solid State Drives (eSSDs) comprise the Tier 0 storage level. Built from Flash memory rather than a rotating disk, this Solid State drive delivers ultra-quick read/write speed for mission critical data. The most important feature of this tier is its consistent performance, ensuring that users can access data as and when they need it.
Improved reliability and faster access to data make SSD’s perfectly placed to meet the constant access needs of the dynamic data environment in a modern business. Although SSD technology is traditionally more expensive, cost per input/output performance (IPO) in an eSSD is at least one tenth cheaper than a 15K RPM disk drive.
Tier 1 – data essentials
The next layer of business data sits within this tier. While not mission-critical, the information housed within this level still needs to be readily available, and can include word documents and presentations, or financial data. Powered by high performance 15,000 RPM disk drives, it offers users similar functionality in terms of power, reduced latency and quicker access time to information, as and when users need it. Again, cost balance comes into play – these hard disk drives (HDDs) have a lower capacity and therefore come at a higher cost per gigabyte. However there are fewer 15K drives required over short-stroked 10K to achieve targeted IPO per second.
Tier 2 – priority performance
In Tier 2, direct-access storage applications demand capacity, power and performance features, optimised using 10,000 RPM HDDs. Features of this tier remain the same as traditional entry-level enterprise storage, with a lower price point per gigabyte, which means the ability to house a larger volume of storage. This is the most balanced storage level, incorporating a mix of performance, capacity and pricing. These drives are typically 2.5-inch HDDs, generating less heat and thus requiring less cooling – making them energy efficient.
Tier 3 – a home for digital history
This third and final layer of enterprise storage is comprised of business critical data which, while not required on a daily basis, must be archived and recovered as and when required, within the hour. This tier is based on high-capacity 7,200 RPM HDDs – enabling the business to store large volumes of historical information, specifically transactional data – but at a lower cost per gigabyte. This level can hold reams of high-capacity data, even reaching up to terabyte capacities where required.
As businesses continue to grapple with increasing digital diversity within the enterprise IT landscape, there’s no doubt that storage capabilities will prove increasingly critical to business productivity. Tiered storage solutions provide organisations with dynamic storage capabilities, to help them tackle growing challenges around capacity and volume, accessibility and cost-saving. As we move towards the next generation of digital discovery, by applying an intelligent approach to information storage, businesses can ensure they remain one step ahead of the data game.