Automated tiering drove many storage technology discussions in 2010. We saw EMC introduce FAST—EMC’s approach to implementing SSD among its primary disk storage platforms. We also saw the acquisition of 3PAR by HP and Compellent by Dell. 3PAR’s InForm and Compellent’s Fluid Data platforms feature automated, in-the-box storage tiering where data is shuttled among SSD, high performance FC or SAS, and high density SATA drive tiers depending on data currency and application performance requirements.
During 2010, NetApp bucked the automated tiering trend line with the introduction of Flash Cache (f.k.a. PAM II). The contrarian message from NetApp attached to Flash Cache is “Tier Less, Cache More.” NetApp wants storage administrators to view the automated tiering architectures of its competitors as costly, inefficient, and essentially an example of yesterday’s technology. Flash Cache on the other hand delivers accelerated performance and greater storage efficiency at a lower cost that the automated tiering schemes of its competitors using SSD as the primary performance tier, often referred to as Tier 0.