Storage systems are undergoing important changes. New systems are becoming available that are both sophisticated and make storage “simple.” Simple is mainly a euphemism for automating many complicated tasks that administrators had to deal with before, but there’s a lot more to this than just automation of tasks.
There are modern architectures where the underlying device abstraction or virtualization has been changed to enable advanced features such as:
• allocating capacity only on write operations (thin provisioning)
• distribution of data across devices to maximize the number of possible I/O operations (wide striping)
• applying device protection algorithms such as RAID or Forward Error Correction at the abstracted level
• and other advanced capabilities
I wrote about some of these architectural changes here.
Other updates have changed the way storage is configured. For advanced systems, element managers are made simpler by automating underlying actions. And, the tuning that was a cross between tribal knowledge and super specialist training is built into these systems.
Another ongoing change is the elimination of electro-mechanical devices for storage. The current trend is toward NAND flash used in solid-state drives (SSDs). These devices provide less power consumption, greater performance, and potentially longer lifespans than disk technology. Currently undergoing a rapid price decline, flash and the solid-state technology to follow will become the foundation of modern storage devices.
To use an automobile analogy, storage systems have moved from a relatively primitive state to a modern system that makes it seem simple. Automobiles that used to require a crank start, manual adjustment of the spark advance, and points changes every 10,000 miles are inconceivable to most of today’s drivers. How many car owners today know what a manual choke is?
Storage systems are making that same type of modernization transition. We’re at an inflection point for storage as we move to a modern generation of systems.