Rethinking Storage in the Age of Converged Infrastructure

The technology landscape for a storage professional is rapidly changing thanks to innovative new technologies. The drive for change in this space is immense as storage departments are challenged to decrease costs while increasing capacity and performance. Many IT organizations are looking to shift from traditional silos to converged infrastructure in order to achieve higher levels of efficiency. There are three major areas a storage professional needs to consider when looking at this rapidly changing landscape.

Understand your legacy storage and utilization
Two questions dominate legacy storage architectures: “How much capacity do I need?” and “How fast does it need to be?”. In a legacy storage array, capacity and performance are largely tied together due to the limitations of spinning hard drives. To increase performance, you just add more drives to do more work. This architectural limitation means the legacy storage array has far more capacity than required just to achieve the performance desired. By making smart use of flash storage, converged infrastructure can decouple performance from capacity requirements. It is important to understand actual storage consumption, not just the amount of capacity in your storage arrays.

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Avoid creating converged islands of storage
Before the advent of centralized storage, data was kept on individual servers. The industry moved away from this “islands of storage” concept to make better use of underutilized capacity, but this came with a cost. Before data could be accessed, it had to traverse a network, which added a fair amount of latency to access time. This tradeoff between efficiency and performance served most IT organizations well until the advent of flash memory. Flash storage brings the concept of data locality to the forefront of performance.

Some deployments exist in which flash storage is attached directly inside the server. However, this type of implementation limits scalability, reliability and performance, resulting in islands of storage again. When data locality matters, a better design exists. Solutions like Dell’s Fluid Cache for SAN provide the benefits of data locality by creating a redundant cache network using flash storage internal to a set of servers. When investigating converged infrastructure solutions, keep in mind the importance of data locality, and avoid going backward and creating storage islands.

Challenges and opportunities around workload consolidation
Converged and hyperconverged infrastructure help reduce costs and complexity by integrating servers, storage, networking and management into a single solution. For a storage professional, this creates challenges and opportunities for the consolidation of workloads. Before choosing an architecture for convergence, it is important to identify which workloads need capacity and which only require performance. Often the most performance-intense workloads, like VDI, have only minimal capacity requirements. By understanding the needs of specific workloads, the right architecture can be selected to meet performance and capacity goals.

Converged infrastructure solutions from Dell allow storage professionals to partner with and enable the application teams. Workload consolidation allows them to drive down costs and reduce complexity while increasing performance. Combining powerful flash caching software with different storage tiers allows organizations to meet diverse needs and enable workload consolidation. Dell converged infrastructure solutions allow storage professionals to identify pain points and address them. Embracing converged infrastructure lets IT organizations achieve peak performance while maximizing return on investment—and allows storage professionals to be heroes.

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