Data storage is becoming the biggest line item on the IT budget, especially with the boom in email traffic and the growing demand for data warehouses and big data. Data centers require access to more data storage, but it’s cost-prohibitive to maintain all that storage capacity in-house. That’s why more data center administrators are adopting hybrid data storage solutions.
Demand for data center storage has been growing at more than 50 percent annually, faster than the drop in pricing for data storage. In fact, data storage now costs between 33 and 70 cents of every dollar spent on data center hardware. And demand for data storage is seldom consistent. While growth of some types of data, such as email, can be predicted, demand for data warehouse storage and data storage for big data projects remains fluid, which means costs fluctuate depending on the data demand for specific projects. As a result, IT managers are looking at new ways to maintain a more scalable and fluid data storage infrastructure.
What IT managers want is a data storage strategy that delivers maximum flexibility at minimal cost and with minimal management, which is why hybrid solutions are so attractive. Implementing a hybrid storage system that incorporates both extensible storage arrays and cloud-based storage is proving to be an easy, cost-effective way to manage data center storage needs.
Options in Storage Drives
There are multiple types of hybrid data storage, and each has its advantages depending on requirements.
Hybrid disk storage is one approach that IT managers are using to get improved data access performance as well as add more storage capacity. A hybrid data drive combines a conventional hard disk drive (HDD) with flash memory in order to provide higher speed performance as part of a storage area network (SAN). The flash/disk hybrid improves performance for lower-cost HDDs by placing frequently accessed data in flash memory. Even adding as little as 5 percent flash as part of overall storage substantially increases data access.
Solid-state drives (SSDs) also are making inroads into the data center. Although the cost per gigabyte is still slightly higher than mechanical HDDs, SSDs deliver faster performance and operate at much cooler temperatures, making them ideal for data center applications. For now, data center architects are utilizing a blend of HDDs and SSDs, using the solid-state hardware for data-intensive applications that require faster storage performance.
Enterprise networks using virtualization or corporate clouds are finding that hybrid data storage arrays can increase data storage performance without requiring a major storage upgrade.
The Cloud Offers Extensibility
If data access speed is less of a concern, hybrid cloud storage can be very affordable. Hybrid cloud data storage functions much like internal enterprise storage, but using public cloud storage space. The advantage of using cloud-based storage is that you rent what you need, and it is elastic, so you can add storage when you need it.
Hybrid cloud storage should behave like homogenous storage. The most common strategy is to implement a cloud storage gateway that uses an API in order to manage cloud storage. Policy engines keep the frequently used data on site while moving cold data to the cloud for storage.
Hybrid cloud systems are particularly useful for managing dynamic data processing workloads. Data warehouse systems and big data systems can prove to be good cloud candidates. For example, hybrid cloud storage can be used to retain corporate records for analytics or to accommodate external data pools such as social media content for analysis. Using hybrid cloud data storage in tandem with flash/HDD data center, data storage can help optimize analytics performance without adding in-house data storage costs.
Creating a unified hybrid cloud means using a software-defined storage strategy. In essence, the hardware storage is separated from the controlling software so you can mix and match storage media, using software to control data storage and access. The software is responsible for deduplication, replication, backup, restore, and other functions.
For data center applications, software-defined storage simplifies integration of external data resources, such as cloud storage. It increases storage flexibility, centralizes storage management, and improves cost-efficiency.
Note that software-defined storage is not the same as storage virtualization. Software-defined storage separates storage features and services from the actual storage device, democratizing storage access by simplifying and automating control of storage platforms. Storage virtualization pools storage devices and arrays to appear as a single resource.
Combining multiple data storage platforms into a cohesive hybrid data storage strategy can deliver maximum flexibility and control at minimal costs. Whether there is a need for faster data access, elastic data storage, or better storage control, using a mix-and-match of data storage solutions can create a hybrid data storage architecture that can be used for any kind of data center application.