Just as no two organizations are identical, no single approach to data storage will be best for all companies. A tiered storage architecture that attempts to allocate the organization's most critical data to high-performance disk drives and less critical data to less-expensive storage media inevitably leads to inefficiencies. Tailor your organization's storage strategy to its individual characteristics.
The experts generally agree about what causes inefficiencies in data storage systems: isolation, underutilization, and overprovisioning. What the experts can't seem to agree on is how best to discover and correct these inefficiencies.
In recent years the focus has been on tiered storage. Yet even here there is disagreement as to exactly how many tiers we're talking about. What had been a three-tier hierarchy has morphed in some cases to two tiers, in other cases to four or five tiers, and in at least one case to a single storage tier.
Rather than apply a one-size-fits-all approach to storage management, each organization has to devise a data-storage strategy based on its unique characteristics and operations. Fortunately, there are now more viable storage options for your organization to mix and match than ever before.
The pros and cons of tiered-storage architectures
In a June 2014 TechTarget article, John Toigo explains the three-tiered storage model:
- Tier 1 is comprised of high-performance disk drives, both magnetic and solid-state, for recent and/or high-value data (primarily transactional)
- Tier 2 creates networks of commodity, lower-performance drives to support such business applications as email and ERP
- Tier 3 supports "semi-active" data that is seldom accessed, primarily for historical analyses, and is served by optical discs, tape drives, and other archival media
(Note that modernly Tier 0 has been added to represent flash and other solid-state storage, as shown in the image below.)
Any storage environment that uses arrays from two or more vendors requires a unified storage management application. Open management systems include the Simple Network Management Protocol, Storage Management Initiative Specification, and REST. Beyond this is the realm of virtualized storage and software-defined storage.
In a November 6, 2014, article, StorageCraft's Contel Bradford lists three benefits of unified storage management: simplicity compared to managing RAID arrays; the flexibility to combine a block-based RAID system with file-based NAS; and more efficient use of storage capacity over block-based and file-based systems.
Storage tiers flatten: Tier 1 is obsolete
An organization's critical data has long been reserved to the high-end hardware of the top tier in the storage hierarchy. Some analysts are questioning whether there is still a need for any premium storage.
Computerworld's John Martin argues in a November 6, 2013, post that the focus on I/O operations per second (IOPS) in Tier 1 storage leads to wasting the capacity of expensive drives. At the same time, organizations can realize the full value of their data "archives" by extracting business intelligence from them rather than seeing storage of the data as a burden.
One of the best ways to improve the efficiency of your company's storage management is by using BitCan's cloud storage service. In addition to paying for only the storage you're using, BitCan gives you a simple point-and-click interface for setting and scheduling backups of MySQL and MongoDB databases, and Unix/Linux systems and files.
You use the same interface to recover your databases and files. BitCan encrypts your data at the communication and storage layers, and your backups are retained indefinitely on Amazon's S3's servers. Visit the BitCan site to create a free 30-day trial account.