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Clustering influences future

Microscope contributor

by Paul Kunert

Consolidation at disk array level is forcing major storage vendors to reconsider more scalable options that industry observers predict will replace monolithic systems in the not-too-distant future.

Evidence of this can be found in Dell’s bid for EqualLogic last year and more recently IBM’s acquisition of XIV, which sells block-level disk arrays powered by multiple clustered controllers and includes virtualisation and data management software.

Big Blue said it planned to pitch XIV into Web 2.0 and digital media markets, but would only admit the technology will influence next-generation architectures and not necessarily oust them.

"Both technologies have different characteristics and it is premature to say clustering will replace [large disk arrays], but it will certainly help to shape the way we see things in the future," said Steve Legg, chief technology officer for storage, UK and Ireland at IBM.

Consolidation was driving customers to clustered storage, claimed John Greenwood, sales director at NCE — a point he said had left the major vendors with a gap in their portfolios. "Everyone is trying to get back to one beefy storage array that can be shared at block level between multiple operating systems and applications. The market is heading in this direction because of cost," he added.

Block level storage from the major vendors is based on 4GB fibre channel, whereas XIV uses 10GB Ethernet speeds, which meant slower performance issues were no longer apparent, said Greenwood.

Clustering represented "the next-generation" storage architecture and XIV was a vital acquisition for IBM, argued Eric Sheppard, programme manager for European storage systems research at IDC.

Other analysts said there was a growing requirement among network managers to migrate to disk environments, providing users with faster service levels, and continued growth in data volumes would ultimately challenge monolithic disk arrays.

"In the long term, the management of clustered environments will make the move [from monolithic systems] more cost-effective," said Hamish Macarthur, CEO at storage analyst Macarthur Stroud International.


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