A profusion of data flowing into and across the modern enterprise fuels today’s mission-critical applications and informs strategic decision making. However, rampant growth in the volume, velocity and variety of data, together with the evolving demands of diverse application workloads, is straining budgets and hindering IT productivity.

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For instance, the majority of digital content being generated is unstructured data, which ages quickly and is rarely — if ever — accessed again. IT leaders are dealing with the challenges of retaining this data and ensuring its compliance, as well as determining how to efficiently turn this massive data pool into a resource for deriving fresh business insights.

As IT decision makers consider ways to respond proactively to emerging needs, they often find that traditional storage solutions add cost and complexity — effectively defeating the efficiencies promised by virtualization and consolidation. Typically, traditional storage systems are tightly tied to vendor-specific hardware solutions and storage area network (SAN) islands, and customized implementations are needed for each application environment. In contrast, today’s dynamic workplace calls for a flexible storage framework that maximizes scalability, simplifies data management and optimizes workload performance across the data center.

Building a modern storage architecture

A series of key technology acquisitions has allowed Dell to engineer modern, workload-driven storage architectures that are flexible and easy to scale. Dell storage incorporates best-of-breed technologies — including compression, deduplication, automated tiering, a high-performance scalable file system, virtualization and embedded systems intelligence — to deliver outstanding levels of efficiency and agility.

Moreover, Dell storage is integrated with Dell servers, networking, software and services in bundles that address a wide range of workload requirements, from entry-level to traditional IT to advanced hybrid cloud and high-performance computing applications. This integration accelerates the alignment of storage with application workloads, enabling organizations to adapt flexibly to changing requirements and ensure business continuity.

Getting data to the right place at the right time

Traditional methods for achieving high throughput for I/O-intensive workloads involved buying large quantities of fast, high-cost disks. For example, a typical 15,000 rpm disk yields 200 I/Os per second (IOPS). So if a data-intensive enterprise application needed 100,000 IOPS, administrators had to buy at least 50 drives to meet the required performance — whether they needed the capacity or not.

In contrast, solid-state drive (SSD) technologies with automated tiering make it possible to achieve millions of IOPS within a single rack, with substantial cost-savings in power, cooling and management. Dell incorporates Data Progression automated tiering software into its hard disk drive (HDD) and SSD systems to help improve both performance and cost-efficiencies. By collecting statistics on actual usage, Data Progression can determine in real time where data needs to be and move it to its proper location within the data’s lifecycle. This approach enables administrators to deploy a mix of high-performance storage for frequently accessed, hot data used by business-critical workloads and relatively inexpensive disk storage for less frequently accessed data serving infrastructure and backup operations.

Maximizing disk capacity

Optimizing storage utilization helps reduce capital and operational expenditures by enabling enterprises to store large amounts of data on less hardware than before. Innovative technologies built into Dell storage help maximize disk capacity as well as enhance the efficiency of storage and data management.

For example, Dell thin provisioning software is designed to completely separate allocation from utilization, avoiding pre-allocated but unused capacity. Administrators can provision any size virtual volume upfront but consume physical capacity only when data is actually written to disk. As a result, IT managers can purchase the disk they need to store data today, and then continue saving by expanding the system on demand as business needs change, instead of overprovisioning storage in the first place to meet service-level agreements.

Scalable file systems also play a key role in maximizing capacity. Dell Fluid File System (FluidFS) was engineered to avoid the scalability limitations of traditional network attached storage (NAS) and file servers. FluidFS v3 can address up to 2 PB within a single namespace, allowing organizations to gain exceptional control over the explosive growth of unstructured data.

Included at no additional cost with FluidFS solutions is Fluid Data Reduction, which provides policy-based, variable-block deduplication and compression. This feature helps administrators establish best-practice lifecycle management policies for efficient storage of large data volumes, and it enables business intelligence and eDiscovery applications to effectively glean value from vast amounts of aging data.

In addition, Dell has extended its deduplication and compression technologies to purpose-built backup and archive appliances that are integrated with Dell data protection software and management solutions. This integration allows enterprises to maximize the value of disk systems and data throughout the data lifecycle, from creation to deletion.

Integrating storage into workload-driven architectures

To meet the needs of diverse workloads, enterprises can adopt different storage tiers within a simple solution architecture comprising storage, networking and servers (see figure). By examining different workload requirements and categorizing their characteristics, IT decision makers can identify specific pain points and environmental requirements. This process helps align the appropriate storage tiers with the particular workload, which can be considered in three categories: business-critical, collaboration and infrastructure, and non-mission-critical.

Dell storage solutions are tightly integrated into workload-driven architectures designed to optimize cost-efficiencies

Dell storage solutions are tightly integrated into workload-driven architectures designed to optimize cost-efficiencies across a comprehensive range of applications.

Delivering high performance for business-critical workloads

Business-critical applications, such as Oracle® Database 12c, SAP® Business Suite and Microsoft® SQL Server® software, are typically I/O-intensive workloads that can benefit from performance-focused flash technologies. Flash storage boosts response in highly transactional workloads — particularly the random I/O access patterns caused by virtualized applications. Flash storage is available in a variety of form factors ranging from PCI Express (PCIe)–based SSDs in application servers to flash appliances and all-flash or hybrid-flash arrays.

In developing its flash-optimized storage solutions, Dell leveraged advances in flash SSD technologies and linked them to enhancements in its advanced storage tiering software. This approach combines the speed of flash storage with the cost-effective capacity of HDDs — driving down storage costs to the level where performance-optimized flash solutions may be deployed at the price of a rotating disk.1

All-flash storage arrays in the SC Series portfolio from Dell automatically tier hot data to high-performance single-level cell (SLC) SSDs and less frequently used data to lower-cost multi-level cell (MLC) SSDs — helping change the economics of high-end storage solutions.2 With large-capacity flash storage that delivers both scalability and low latency, SC Series all-flash arrays provide the high IOPS and quick response required for online transaction processing (OLTP), mission-critical enterprise applications and big data analytics.

Because the SC Series can manage three disk technologies in each array, traditional spinning disk shelves can be added to the all-flash configurations, producing a high-performance, high-capacity system in an extremely cost-efficient package.

Flash storage is also integrated with Dell PowerEdge servers as part of Dell Fluid Cache for SAN. This scale-out caching solution is designed to accelerate the performance of applications accessing data from an external SC Series SAN. Flash drives inside the server are configured as a tier 0 storage cache for exceptional I/O performance in the millions of IOPS. Automated tiering software moves data between the cache and the SAN, enabling performance and capacity to be maintained at unprecedented levels.

Balancing price and performance for collaboration and infrastructure support

Collaboration and infrastructure applications are traditional IT workloads that run, for the most part, in virtualized environments. To heighten the efficiency of virtualization, enterprises can leverage current IT investments with storage that is tightly integrated into their virtual environments and offer a balanced mix of features and costs. To further expand efficiencies and performance in this workload area, mid-tier Dell storage incorporates high-end enterprise technologies such as all-flash arrays, cost-optimized dense arrays and innovative software and services integration.

PS Series SAN arrays from Dell make enterprise-class shared-block storage practical for a comprehensive range of servers and applications. PS Series storage is designed to scale out performance and capacity predictably and nondisruptively across storage generations. This capability helps eliminate downtime when increasing capacity, moving data between storage tiers or load balancing storage.

To help simplify management, PS Series arrays are highly integrated with VMware vSphere®, Microsoft® Hyper-V® and Citrix® XenServer® virtualization platforms. Administrators can easily provision, manage and grow data stores in a single, automated workflow.

PS Series hybrid-flash arrays are well suited for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and mixed workloads. Automated tiering software continuously and quickly balances hot and warm data between SSD and HDD tiers.

The PS-M4110 storage blade array combines with blade servers and networking to converge data center infrastructure into a single chassis. This integration helps reduce data center complexity, real estate, cable configurations, and power and cooling requirements.

Optimizing cost for non-mission-critical workloads

To support large data archives, cold storage for backup, image libraries and other non-mission-critical workloads, enterprises focus on optimizing price per terabyte with the lowest total cost of ownership. Dell provides a wide range of cost-optimized storage solutions designed to minimize power and cooling while delivering the capacity demanded by applications and users.

For example, SC Series storage from Dell provides outstanding rack density — 336 TB in 5U of rack space. This means that 2 PB of data can now be stored in a single rack. By minimizing the storage footprint in the data center, SC Series storage helps reduce operational expenditures.

The PS Series portfolio also includes a dense array solution that can integrate with existing peer-scalable pools of storage to create primary and secondary storage in environments that are easy to deploy and manage.

Also, MD series and NX series primary storage devices from Dell are tailored to the needs of small business, departmental and branch-office operations, providing cost-effective enterprise-class features and reliability. IT managers can match a variety of drive and performance options to workload demands, including SSD, serial attached SCSI (SAS) and nearline SAS technologies, as well as a variety of interconnect protocols such as direct attach storage (DAS), Internet SCSI (iSCSI), Fibre Channel and NAS. With easy management, MD series and NX Series storage offer a balance of performance, value and operational simplicity for entry-level storage and backup and recovery needs.

Adopting a flexible foundation for dynamic storage management

Modern storage architectures enable enterprises to apply innovative technologies to different workloads, helping create top-notch value and economies of scale without the legacy bonds of forklift upgrades and unexpected expenses.

The Dell portfolio of intelligent storage solutions is designed to address today’s diverse workload demands, enabling IT leaders to manage enterprise data throughout its lifecycle simply, flexibly and cost-effectively. Best-of-breed technologies integrated within Dell storage optimize storage performance to help lower operating and capital expenditures.

The efficiency enabled by innovative storage technologies advances productivity, freeing IT professionals to focus on strategic, value-added initiatives. As well, enterprises gain competitive advantage by actively and intelligently managing data as a vital resource.

Gene Chesser is a storage strategist at Dell currently working with the Dell ESG product marketing team to evangelize and develop storage solutions encompassing servers and networking to create end-to end-solutions.

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1 The SC Series all-flash storage solution can produce comparable IOPS for applications in a configuration that costs less than a comparable 15,000 rpm disk drive solution, based on internal Dell analysis in July 2013 using Dell Compellent flash-optimized and spinning disk U.S. list pricing.

2 Based on internal Dell analysis in July 2013 using Dell Compellent flash-optimized and spinning disk U.S. list pricing.

Dell, Data Progression, Fluid Data and PowerEdge are trademarks of Dell Inc.