July 2011

Fluid Data Storage: Driving Flexibility in the Data Center

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Today’s dynamic business landscape is no place for complex, inefficient storage systems with dead-end growth paths. The demand for data continues to explode, and ready access to that data is more critical than ever. Yet most enterprise storage solutions fall short, underutilizing data center resources, wasting IT staff time and leaving organizations at risk of unnecessary downtime. All of these factors quickly eat into the bottom line. IT departments are forced to purchase, house, power and cool more hardware than needed. Administrators waste considerable time and effort managing complicated storage systems. And backup and recovery is slow and unreliable, leading to gaps in productivity and backlogs in business transactions. Quickly the costs associated with managing enterprise data can become overwhelming. To compound matters, organizations continue to find themselves locked into proprietary storage platforms that can’t be easily expanded or upgraded. This lack of flexibility and scalability leads to early obsolescence and costly forklift upgrades. Ultimately, administrators are left to coerce rigid storage systems to address core business needs, only to repeat the cycle with each inevitable system overhaul.

With Dell Compellent, enterprise data is actively, intelligently managed throughout its lifecycle so you can constantly adapt to changing business conditions. Together, a Fluid Data architecture, storage virtualization, intelligent software and modular hardware bring unprecedented efficiency, simplicity and security to enterprise storage. Data center resources are utilized to their full potential. Built-in intelligence and automation ensure data is available when and where it’s needed. And an open, persistent hardware platform scales in line with business needs to protect storage investments over thelong term.

There are eight must have Dell Compellent technologies that combine to create new levels of efficiency and flexibility while cutting cost now and in the future.

1. Fluid Data Architecture

The underlying problem with most storage systems is that they manage data in complete volumes, restricting system flexibility and performance from the outset. To realise storage efficiencies and reduce data center costs, you need to manage data at a more granular level – within the volume itself. Dell Compellent storage is enabled by a dynamic Fluid Data architecture that actively,  intelligently managesdata at the block level. Specific information about each  lock is captured in flight throughout the day to provide real-time intelligence  or dynamically  storing, migrating and recovering data. These use  characteristics are gathered using minimal system overhead but can be extensive. Examples include thetype of data stored, disk drive used, RAID  evel,  ime written, frequency of access and more.

Empowered by this intelligence, built-in storage automation optimises the provisioning, placement and protection of data throughout its lifecycle. Business applications are implemented faster, information to make decisions is  lways available, new technologies are instantly deployed and data is continuously protected.

2. Storage Virtualization

With Dell Compellent, virtual storage volumes can be provisioned and mapped to servers in seconds. The system even expands volumes automatically when  an application requires more storage. Administrators don’t need to waste time  with complicated capacity planning, or even take the system offline  for modifications. This ability to change, shift or dynamically scale storage on  demand minimizes disk expenditures, saves staff time and ensures continuous availability. Since read/write operations are spread across all drives, multiple   I/O requests can be processed in parallel. This eliminates the “hot spots” associated with conventional storage systems while expediting data access and boosting application and OS performance. As more capacity is added to the  pool, data is automatically restriped across all available drives for hands-free  load balancing and performance tuning.

Storage virtualization amplifies the  benefits of server virtualization. In fact, users can quickly create hundreds of virtual volumes to support any virtual server platform and optimize the  placement of virtual applications without wasting time, money or disk space.

3. Thin Provisioning

With other storage systems, physical disk capacity is pre allocated when the  volume is created. Administrators estimate how much capacity may be required for a given application and allocate “extra” space to accommodate  growth. If the volume created is 500 GB, all 500 GB are set aside for that application. No other applications can use any of the pre allocated disk space,  and none of it can be reclaimed later if actual utilisation doesn’t coincide with staff estimates. Such inefficient disk utilisation inflates capital expenditures,   expenditures and, ultimately, your total cost of ownership (TCO). Administrators are forced to buy more capacity than needed upfront, when the  price per GB is sure to fall. Dell Compellent Thin Provisioning software, called Dynamic Capacity, completely separates allocation from utilisation, eliminating  reallocated but unused capacity. Administrators can provision any size virtual volume upfront yet only consume physical capacity when data is actually written  to disk. That means you purchase the data you need to store your data today,  then continue saving by expanding the system on demand, adding the right capacity at the right time as your business needs change. In most cases,  organizations can regain 40 to 60 percent of disk space that would have been  lost  to pre allocation. You can even reclaim capacity from volumes provisioned with legacy systems using Thin Import.

4. Automated Tiered Storage

To continue containing costs throughout the life cycle of enterprise data, Dell Compellent leverages an innovative data movement engine that integrates  intelligent tiering with advanced virtualisation. Traditionally, information life cycle management has been a tedious and manual process with no end. Data  is continually classified and reclassified based on its “importance” to the organization, an approach rife  with political implications.

Manually moving data between high-performance drives and more  cost-effective, capacity-oriented drives is complicated and time consuming.Add-on migration engines can help, but increase overall software  costs and waste valuable staff time for systems integration.Either way, each  volume must be moved in its entirety, although some of that data is probably  more frequently accessed. With Dell Compellent, since data is actively,  intelligently managed at the block level, manually moving data between tiers is    thing of the past. Using unique Automated Tiered Storage software, known as  data Progression, Dell Compellent dynamically classifies and migrates data to the optimum tier based on actual usage. The “importance” of data becomes a matter of fact according to actual usage, and data placement organically remains in tune with changing business needs.

Data is written to high performance Solid State (SDD) or Fibre Channel (FC)  drives on Tier 1 storage. Then, as the frequency of access declines, the less  active blocks of data migrate to FC or SAS drives on Tier 2 storage. Over time,completely inactive data moves to high-capacity SAS or SATA drives on  Tier 3 storage. To further free up high-performance drives for mission critical applications, snapshots automatically flow to cost effective, energy-saving drives. Meanwhile, the most active data is dynamically placed on the outer  tracks of each drive for increased performance. Since most enterprise data is  inactive, on average organizations can reduce disk expenditures by as much as  80 percent with Automated Tiered Storage.

5. Space-efficient Snapshots

Protecting enterprise data from server failures, viruses, power outages, human  error and other inevitable circumstances is critical to continued business success. Today’s organizations simply can’t remain competitive without the  ability to quickly and accurately recover “lost” or inadvertently deleted data. Using conventional backup technologies is slow, unreliable and consumes  excess storage space. Creating continuous snapshots protects data more effectively, but most snapshots still require full mirror images and subsequent  full-volume clones. RAID overhead only adds to the problem. Such a heavy  burden on disk resources significantly hinders system performance, and  full-volume clones delay recovery. Also, because most systems provision disk  space so inefficiently, the number of snapshots that can be taken is limited –  usually 10 per volume. Limited snapshots mean fewer time interval recovery  points, putting mission-critical applications at risk of extended downtime. With
Dell Compellent, snapshots are space efficient because Data Instant Replay software doesn’t require a full mirror image or subsequent full-volume clones. In fact, only changes in data since the last snapshot, or Replay, need to be  captured, dramatically reducing the amount of disk space required. The  integrity of enterprise application data spanning multiple virtual volumes is  protected using Consistency Groups. And Dell Compellent storage doesn’t  restrict the number of Replays that can be taken. That means changes in data  can be captured continuously in short intervals for the utmost level of security  using minimal capacity.

6. Thin Replication

Dell Compellent Thin Replication technology, Remote Instant Replay, provides  affordable, verifiable and simplified multisite data protection leveraging space- efficient Replays. Following initial site synchronisation, only incremental  changes in data need to be replicated. This cuts hardware costs, reduces bandwidth requirements and significantly expedites recovery. Dell Compellent  storage can maintain unlimited high number of Replays without affecting  system performance, and the Replays can easily be mapped to any server for  near instant recovery to any point in time.

Since Dell Compellent storage intelligently transfers only changed blocks of  data, bandwidth utilization is optimized, reducing the need for high speed connections. Built-in bandwidth simulation and shaping further streamline the  process. Transfer rates can be customized based on link speed, time of day and  replication priority.

Another advantage of Thin Replication is that it doesn’t require identical system configurations at each site. That gives you the flexibility to choose  lower-cost SAS or SATA drives for remote sites. To further maximize  efficiencies,  ell Compellent storage features a built-in Fibre Channel-to-iSCSI converter, enabling administrators to replicate data natively over existing IP  etworks. Users can also expedite initial replication synchronization using  Portable Volume, secure enterprise-class external hard drives preconfigured  for use with Dell Compellent storage.

7. Unified Storage Resource Management

Managing conventional storage systems is complex and time-consuming. In  fact, IT staff expenditures often exceed the cost of the storage platform itself.  Administrators need to monitor always-changing capacity requirements,  manually migrate data from tier to tier, configure backup sequences and more.  And in most cases, all these tasks must be performed using multiple, standalone  user interfaces.

Dell Compellent storage is designed to help administrators manage more data in  less time.This is largely because of the built-in efficiency and intelligent automation of Dell Compellent storage. It is also because Dell Compellent  storage features an intuitive, point-and-click interface that provides a complete  view of the entire storage environment through a single pane of glass. With Dell Compellent, there is no need for specialized skill sets or ongoing systems training. Wizards guide users through system setup and application configuration, making even advanced operations simple and straightforward. Since common, repetitive(and often time-consuming) tasks are fully automated, users can focus on other important projects. Storage consumption and usage trends are automatically monitored and displayed,eliminating the  eed for manual capacity planning. And a unique Phone Home feature provides automated real-time alerts and notifications for remote diagnostics and  monitoring. Dell Compellent storage even generates executive summaries, cost-savings calculations and utilization charge back reports with just a few clicks.

8. Open, Agile Hardware Platform

Unlike systems that require you to rip and replace hardware as your business  needs change, Dell Compellent supports the continual adoption of new  technologies on a single, modular platform. This is a major departure from the  status quo, which imposes artificial restrictions on everything from drive type to server interconnect. Simply put, most storage systems are designed for early  obsolescence, forcing organizations into costly forklift upgrades.

Dell  Compellent storage is designed for persistence. Administrators can scale from entry-level to enterprise on the same platform (from 2 TB to 1,000 TB in the  same system) incrementally in line with business needs. They can also deploy any combination of FC and iSCSI server interfaces, as well as mix and match  SSD, FC, SAS and SATA drives in the same system. Even SAS drives with varying  capacities and rotational speeds can be used in the same enclosures.  You can seamlessly adopt new and emerging  technologies on the fly as they become available. And upgrades, port modifications and other changes in configuration can be implemented on demand without disruption. Dell  Compellent storage also features fully redundant hardware and advanced  fail over capabilities. Clustered controllers, each with redundant fans and power  supplies, operate in unison for optimum system performance. Yet each  controller connects to enclosures and drives independently to ensure no single  point of failure. Controller port virtualization and dual paths from servers to disk drives also enhance availability, with built-in multi- path I/O failover  liminating the need for custom software.

With Dell Compellent, you have the freedom to choose the technologies that support your IT infrastructure today and readily adapt to change tomorrow– all without disruption.

Conclusion

Organizations no longer have to be confined by the rigid boundaries and  perpetual expense of conventional storage systems. By actively managing data at a more granular level, Dell Compellent provides dynamic, virtualized storage  that readily adapts to constant change. The utilization of storage resources is optimized to cut storage costs now and in the future. Advanced,  space efficient snapshot technology protects against downtime for continuous availability without squandering storage resources. And an open, agile  hardware platform safeguards storage investments over the long term by  remaining technology independent and scaling without disruption. By  leveraging Fluid Data technology in the data center, organizations can  significantly lower the cost of managing enterprise data throughout its lifecycle.

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