Feeds

Arrays take on servers in storage smackdown

Location, location, location: Where's a storage box's soul?

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Storage array vendor conundrum

The mainstream external storage array vendors are facing two, not one, strategic challenges to their long-term hegemony. The nearer term one is the introduction of networked flash-only arrays from companies like Huawei, Nimbus, Pure Storage and others, which threaten to cream off their profitable fast array business based on 15,000rpm Fibre Channel disk drives. All primary data storage could migrate to flash-only arrays, leaving the EMC, Dell, HDS, HP, IBM and NetApp-style vendors to store the bulk data crumbs, the low-access rate, lower profit, online data repositories.

EMC VMAX VIrtual Matrix

EMC VMAX array Virtual Matrix

The second threat though is the more important one because, after all, a networked external flash storage array is still a networked external storage array. Co-locating servers and storage with no traditional storage networking protocol connecting them is different. If servers absorb external storage, as is the Oracle Exadata plan, or external storage absorbs servers, as is the import of Dell and EMC's plans, then networked external storage is no longer needed: we have the NoSAN server.

There's a distinction to be made between converged systems with co-located servers and storage using storage networking protocols and converged systems that do not, the NoSAN servers.

A VCE Vblock, an HP VS3 and a NetApp Flexpod set-up all use networked external storage. An app-running VMAX has no storage networking protocol needed to link servers (app-executing VMAX engines) and storage (storage controller app-executing VMAX engines) as they all hook into the VMAX internal fabric. This is fundamentally an entirely different beast. For a start the server-storage link is proprietary and not open. You wouldn't be able to substitute a NetApp, HP or IBM array for the VMAX storage part of VMAX app-executing system. It would be like trying to put a BMW engine in a Mercedes car. Good luck to you and don't expect any sympathy for the grief heading your way.

Criticise Fibre Channel, FCoE and iSCSI all you like but they are open systems allowing you to switch suppliers of servers and storage either side of the storage networking link.

FCoE becomes irrelevant

Discussions about whether to move to Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) from Fibre Channel will be rendered irrelevant by co-located servers and storage communicating across some kind of I/O backplane or mesh network, or servers and storage talking across PCIe. FCoE is a transition from one instantiation of a legacy storage-server connection protocol to another.

The future may be not to have a storage networking protocol at all. Data will ship between server memory and flash to co-located array storage across PCIe buss links or an array's internal fabric.

What this means for stand-alone storage array products is that a razor thin end of a wedge is appearing in the door through which they sell their arrays. This wedge can be expected to fatten. If it does, then the external array business will be impacted. It may be that data growth will be such that array sales increase while NoSAN server storage sales grow as well. But there is a long-term threat here, looking at a five-year or 10-year timescale, in which the external array business declines.

Its only hope of rescue will be through the provision of external array links that match the latency and bandwidth of third-gen PCIe, or internal array fabrics such as is found inside VMAX.

A strategic battle has been joined and the existence of the external storage array business is being questioned. Yes, it's a razor thin wedge that has been slipped into the external array door, but wedges do what wedges do: they become thicker. If Dell and EMC pull their NoSAN server ideas off, then a world of hurt awaits external array vendors that have no effective response. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
Attack of the clones: Oracle's latest Red Hat Linux lookalike arrives
Oracle's Linux boss says Larry's Linux isn't just for Oracle apps anymore
THUD! WD plonks down SIX TERABYTE 'consumer NAS' fatboy
Now that's a LOT of porn or pirated movies. Or, you know, other consumer stuff
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
FLAPE – the next BIG THING in storage
Find cold data with flash, transmit it from tape
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.