Last week at the IBM Technical Conference I was able to spend some time with a couple of friends discussing technology. It is always interesting to hear their take on where the storage market is going and what lays ahead in the future. As my Netapp pal and I were chatting about the messaging around unified architecture, we both noted that unified to one perceptive is disjointed to another.
IBM and Netapp have been using the term unified for its NAS/SAN device for about 5 years now. The idea is to share a common code base on the same hardware to increase functionality and usability of that storage. Other vendors have gone similar routes using multiple code bases and/or hardware but I see that as a NAS gateway in front of SAN storage system.
This has been very successful in data centers both large and small. But the idea of how we manage storage is changing. Virtualization is changing the idea of how and even where our data may be stored. The term cloud is something of a marketing term but I like the term Storage Utility better. Utility companies such as electric, water, sewer and even cable provide a product to its consumers and storage utility vendors could do the same.
Most people are not concerned about process companies take to make water drinkable or how electricity is generated as long as it is safe, reliable and easy for them to consume. Storage as a Utility is no different, it is only when the storage is offline or hacked in by outsiders the consumers are concerned. There are laws that govern utilities and the FTC has put some privacy laws together to help consumers but I believe we can take it a little further (a blog for another time).
As our data is changing from traditional spinning drives in our data center to a storage utility, we will need some type of bridge that will ease the pain of transition. The main reason people do not adapt new technology is because the transition is often too painful and the benefit of new technology is less than the need to move. Whether it is a software package that helps move data or a hardware device, it will have to give access to both file based data and object based data. This will allow for users to read the files as needed no matter what their connectivity or location. It could also be used to help drive efficiencies up buy allowing data to move from file based (high cost) to object based (lower cost) environments.
Today there are some vendors who have early versions of this type of unified solution. They are bridging the gap between what we have today in private data centers and the future of public utility storage. This is very early in the transition but with this type of technology, we will be able to adapt and provide a better way of storing data. Will it still be called a unified solution? Only the marketing people can tell us that.