Sep 25, 2014

5 ways to prepare for skyrocketing data center storage needs

Ansley Kilgore

Data-center-storageData center storage requirements are changing quickly as a result of the increasing volumes of big data that must be stored, analyzed and transmitted. The digital universe is doubling in size every two years, and will grow by a factor of 10 between 2013 and 2020, according to the recent EMC Digital Universe study. So, clearly storage needs are skyrocketing.

Fortunately (for all of us buyers out there), the cost per gigabyte of storage is falling rapidly, primarily because disk and solid state drives continue to evolve to support higher areal densities. Alas, the volume of data being stored seems to be outpacing our ability to cram more magnetic bits (or circuits in the case of flash) per nanometer of surface area.

So clearly, storage costs are likely to become a larger component of overall IT budgets in the coming years. Here are five things to consider when planning for your future storage needs.

1. High power density data centers
With increasing storage needs and a greater sophistication of the storage devices in use, power needs for each square foot in a data center are increasing rapidly. As a result, high power density design is a critical component of any modern data center. For example, if an average server rack holds around 42 servers and each of those servers uses 300W of power, the entire rack will require 12-13kW in a space as small as 25 square feet. Some data center cabinets can be packed with even more servers; for example, some blade server systems can now support more than 10x the number of servers that might exist in an average rack. This increasing demand for higher power density is directly related to the need for higher storage densities in data centers.

2. Cost-efficient data center storage
Choosing an energy-efficient data center from the start can help control costs in the long run. Facilities designed for high density power can accommodate rising storage needs within a smaller space, so you can grow in place without having to invest in a larger footprint.

Allocating your storage budget across different tiers is another way to help control costs. Audit your data to determine how it is used, and how often particular files are accessed during a given period, and categorize the data into tiers so that the type of data is matched with the appropriate storage type. The most-accessed data will require a more expensive storage option while older, less-accessed data can be housed in less-expensive storage. Some examples of different storage types, from most to least expensive, include RAM, solid state drive, spinning hard disk drives (SATA or SAS drives) and tape backup.

3. Scalability
Infrastructure should be designed with scalability in mind; otherwise, costs can become unmanageable and possibly result in poor performance or even outages. Scalability allows you to grow your infrastructure at a pace that matches the growth in data, and also gives you the ability to scale back if needed. Distributed or “scale-out” architectures can provide the perfect foundation for multi-petabyte storage workloads because of their ability to quickly expand and contract according to compute, storage, or networking needs. Also, a hybrid infrastructure that connects different types of environments can enable customers to migrate data between cloud and colocation; if an unexpected need for storage occurs, customers can then shift their budget between opex and capex if needed.

4. Security
Strict security or compliance requirements for data, particularly for companies in the healthcare or payment processing industries, can increase the complexity of data management and storage processes. For example, some data need to be held in dedicated, 3rd party-audited environments and/or fully encrypted at rest and in motion.

5. Backup and replication
When planning your infrastructure, it must support backup and replication in addition to your application requirements. Online backup handles unpredictable failures like natural disasters, while replication deals with predictable hardware failures that may occur during planned maintenance. Establishing adequate replication and backup requirements can more than double the storage needs for your application.

Your data center storage needs will continue to increase over time, as the digital universe continues to expand in alignment with Moore’s Law. Careful planning is required to create a cost-efficient, secure, reliable infrastructure that can keep up with the pace of data growth. Service providers can draw on their experience to help you find the right storage options for different storage needs.

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Ansley Kilgore

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