There was a time when data sources were simple. They were clean and tidy. They were easily stored and managed. And they were inherently structured. Today, data sets take numerous forms, many of which are unstructured: audio, video, photos, graphics, documents and the like. More dauntingly, their numbers are on the rise.
“Unstructured data sets—particularly files—are growing faster than any other data type,” says Dirk Kunselman, Storage Server Product Manager at HP, “and organizations are looking for a place to store them.”
IT teams have three options for storing their new, unstructured information sources, Kunselman suggests. They can implement more general purpose servers to house the data, adding to their administrative burden and foregoing the performance, flexibility or file tools dedicated file servers offer. They can purchase network access storage (NAS) devices, which centralize file management and scalability, but come with their own limitations. Or they can look to the storage area network (SAN).
“Organizations typically use their SAN for mission-critical applications only,” says Kunselman. “As a result, many are underutilized. Why not take advantage of that capacity and use a SAN for general purpose file sharing and storage?”
Service to the SAN
Two reasons spring to mind: cost and complexity. It can be expensive and difficult to connect general purpose servers to a SAN through traditional Fibre Channel links. For these reasons, most organizations have continued to use SANs purely for block storage and handle their everyday file shares elsewhere. But if SAN access barriers are removed, storage array benefits can be extended to unstructured file content and standard application servers.
HP now offers ProLiant Storage Server gateways that not only deliver file services to the SAN, but use iSCSI connectivity to attach more general purpose servers as well. Through iSCSI-to-Fibre-Channel-bridging, IT teams can boost the value of their array by adding file, iSCSI and management services. And because HP ProLiant Storage servers and HP StorageWorks arrays share common engineering, IT gains optimal performance and management interoperability.