Storage Tiering: Enabler for Storage Consolidation – Storage Soup Blog by Randy Kerns

By Randy Kerns, Sunday, August 14th 2011

Analyst Blogs

Storage tiering where data is automatically placed and migrated between different storage technologies improves the performance of a storage system by exploiting the access characteristics of data.  The net effect of storage tiering may sometimes be lost in details of maximizing storage system performance.

Storage Consolidation is one of the major storage efficiency improvements that provide economic benefits in a number of areas.  The Evaluator Group survey of IT professionals https://www.evaluatorgroup.com/storage-efficiency-an-it-perspective illustrates the different areas storage consolidation can impact.  These benefits include:

  • Increased utilization by reducing the number of storage systems in which each would have some amount of reserved or unused capacity.  Centralizing or consolidating storage systems frees up the reserved space and the trapped capacity that may exist.
  • Reduced requirements for management and administration of storage systems.  Independent of having the benefit of more advanced management software with newer storage systems, reducing the number of storage systems inherently reduces the amount of time required for administration.
  • Reduction in power, cooling, and physical space is a common result from implementing new technology alone.  By consolidating systems where a new storage system can support larger workloads typically has a greater impact on the environmental reductions.
  • Maintenance costs / support contracts would generally be less with fewer numbers of storage systems.

Enablement for storage consolidation falls into three key areas:  increased performance and capacity, unified storage with combined block and file access support, and virtualization of storage where storage resources can be pooled and presented to host systems in an abstracted form.  Storage tiering can be used to maximize the performance of a storage system and may be the most important element for consolidation from an economic standpoint.

Storage tiering with the use of different technology devices such as Solid State Devices (SSDs) and high capacity disks depends on the capabilities built into the embedded storage system software to intelligently and automatically place and move data for optimal performance.  Results from deployment in customer environments verify the effectiveness of storage tiering with optimization occurring with as little as 2 to 4% of total capacity in the form of SSDs.  This brings a new economic calculation to bear for storage tiering and the return on investment for a storage consolidation project.

Competitive systems from vendors focus on the automation and effectiveness of the tiering implementation.  These are not esoteric elements in a storage system but critical, high value functions with the potential for storage efficiency improvements and relatively quick economic payback.  This means the understanding of how the tiering works, how effective it is, and the differences in product costs with the amount of SSDs required for optimization requires evaluation and independent information for making a decision.  Storage tiering is a major if not the major storage consolidation enabler.  Tiering has huge payback and needs to be included in the strategy for IT operations.

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