Storage Soup

Jun 21 2011   4:32PM GMT

Misconcpetions about storage tiering in the mid-tier

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

During many of my discussions with IT managers and directors who would be classified in the mid-tier enterprise space (over 1,000 employees), it has become clear that few have deployed storage systems using solid state drives (SSD) with internal tiering. This surprises me given the performance improvements gained by using SSDs as the highest performing tier.

When I ask why they have not installed these types of tiering storage systems, I get some interesting responses:

• A belief that SSDs would be too expensive for their environment;
• They were unaware of tools to figure out how much capacity should be in SSDs to maximize performance; and
• Tiering storage systems were believed to be solely high-end enterprise solutions.

The value of tiering storage to improve performance while automatically managing the movement of data based on patterns of access has been demonstrated, and there are case studies available from vendors. The performance improvement is measurable and most vendors with offerings have tiering monitoring and reporting tools that can show the positive effects.

Additionally, analysis tools can help determine the correct amount of storage capacity in SSDs to maximize performance based on the workloads. Most analysis has shown that on average about 4% of capacity in SSDs can provide the greatest gain.

Using storage tiering as an immediate improvement for storage demands in server virtualization environments is a great benefit in the mid-tier. In this market, server virtualization is moving to primary business applications and the performance of storage can become a critical bottleneck. Articles on storage tiering are available at the Evaluator Group web site.

The real problem here is the ineffective marketing messages from the storage vendors. The message about the value, costs, and tools is not being received by the people that need to hear it. Some of the questions I ask include where the IT directors and managers get their information. The vendors looking to sell to the mid-tier need to be more targeted with their message and use a different approach than with the enterprise data center customer. The presentation of the information also needs to be in the context of what the mid-tier IT person is trying to address with a storage purchase. The value is real and demonstrated but the vendors have not made this point.

For any vendor who wants to accelerate successes with tiered storage systems in the mid-tier environment, a focused, special effort is required. Otherwise, another vendor may take that business.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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