Solving IT storage woes in ME: ‘Scale-Out Storage’

George DeBono, general manager, MEA at Red Hat, talks scale-out storage

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Solving IT storage woes in ME: ‘Scale-Out Storage’ George DeBono from Red Hat says that the growing interest and adoption of scale-out storage has been driven not only by its performance characteristics but also by the economics offered by the technology.
By  George DeBono Published  November 14, 2012

Aggressive acquisition and retention of data, the acceleration of business analytics and impending retention policies and regulations in the Middle East have driven the growth of unstructured data within the organisation. The need to rapidly scale storage while permitting maximum flexibility has given rise to a new storage methodology. Scale-out storage, as opposed to scale-up storage, focuses not only upon how quickly a storage platform can add capacity but also upon how to do so while ensuring that the performance scales linearly as well.

What is Scale-out Storage?
The defining characteristic of scale-out storage is the fact that a single scale-out storage system is composed of many independent server nodes forming a loosely coupled distributed storage system. Thus, scale-out refers to the idea that the capacity and performance of the system may be increased by ‘scaling it out,’ that is, by adding additional nodes. Because each of the nodes in a scale-out storage system brings with it a balanced set of CPU, memory, disk and network interfaces, scale-out systems are known for their ability to scale linearly, without degrading performance as incremental nodes are added. This is in contrast to traditional NAS storage wherein capacity is added by scaling-up or by adding additional resources such as a disk, within the device.

Cost Implications
Scale-out storage offers a number of advantages relative to traditional NAS. To start with, scale-out storage environments are built using off-the-shelf servers and disk, while traditional NAS is typically based on proprietary hardware components. This has significant cost implications, as the cost of commodity components is driven down by marketplace pressures, while vendors of proprietary systems fight to retain the premium they place on their offerings.Thanks to the flexibility of scale-out storage, systems can be scaled by adding new nodes and growing capacity over time. The scale-out storage model also supports the repurposing of data centre hardware.

Operational Expenditure
In addition to the cost advantages that scale-out storage offers over traditional NAS storage, there are several reasons why scale-out storage is more attractive from an operations perspective.

With monolithic NAS, each appliance is individually managed which is why operational costs rise proportionally to the size and scale of the storage environment. A key operational characteristic of scale-out storage is the ability to unify disparate servers and their disks into a single global name space. By virtualising the underlying storage infrastructure and automating its management, scale-out storage decouples management costs from the size and scale of physical storage.

Strategic Factors
While capital and operational cost reductions can positively impact savings, any new technology should always be primarily evaluated for its ability to transform processes for greater business agility. Here too scale-out storage proves its worth.

By forming a single, unified, highly elastic storage pool that is compatible with a wide variety of applications, businesses become positioned to innovate quickly and respond rapidly to marketplace shifts without the burden of establishing a new storage environment for each new initiative. Enterprises deploying scale-out storage are positioned to unify access to data from many sources and make that data broadly accessible to a wide variety of users and applications, fostering very high levels of insight and responsiveness within the enterprise.

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