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3PAR is developing technology to move data blocks automatically between different tiers of storage, according to a person familiar with the situation.

With the massive scale of storage forecast to be needed in the future, the ability to keep only the highly active data blocks on the fastest and most expensive tier of storage (currently solid state drives (SSD)) while moving the rest to cheaper and slower hard disk drive tiers (such as SAS hard drives and then SATA drives) will become important. This is somewhat similar to ILM (Information LifeCycle Management), and it's a way of offering the highest storage I/O performance when needed but also being able to store terabytes and petabytes of data cost-effectively.

The background is that Compellent has had automated movement of data blocks between tiers for some time. EMC is introducing it to its high-end Symmetrix with its FAST technology later this year, initially at the LUN level and then at the sub-LUN level next year, meaning lots and lots of blocks. The more granular the control level the better, as putting relatively inactive data on an SSD is a waste of an expensive resource, like using a Ferrari as a milk float.

Other storage array vendors are also working on automated data movement between tiers, but none of them have generally available product technology yet.

3PAR's InServe arrays operate with 256MB chunklets. CEO David Scott has said it operates down to 16KB blocks, but that seems to be a development intention. According to information we've received, 3PAR has been working for several months on an Adaptive Provisioning technology in which individual storage blocks (or small groups of them) are moved automatically between different tiers of storage. This way, highly-active and important data gets the fastest storage I/O performance and less active data is moved to lower-cost storage. The technology is not yet ready for beta test. Assuming a positive result we would be looking at a mid-to-late 2010 introduction for the technology.

3PAR was not immediately able to comment.

For now, Compellent has a, ahem, compelling lead which must be of interest to storage array buyers looking to maximise both performance, capacity, and cost. ®

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