Five Key Storage Trends Causing Talk in Mid-2011

ANALYSIS: New products and services involving PCIe cards, image cloning, storage pooling, automation, capacity management and a slew of others are coming into the market from established companies and newbies alike.

As we do periodically here at eWEEK, we offer another snapshot (sorry, couldn't resist that analogy) of important new and continuing trends in data storage. These are based upon regular conversations with storage vendors, analysts, data center managers, CIOs and CTOs, in addition to our regular coverage here at eWEEK.

New products and services involving PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect express) cards, image cloning, storage pooling, automation, capacity management and a slew of others are coming into the market from established companies and newbies alike.

Storage media, including spinning disk hard drives, solid-state NAND and NOR flash, digital tape, and optical disks, continue to become more capacious-and run cooler-as engineers and manufacturers improve upon improvements. Markedly better networking and processing speeds are also instrumental in these product upgrades.

Here are five of the most important enterprise storage trends at midyear 2011, as seen by eWEEK:

The mainstreaming of PCIe: Analyst Jim Handy of Objective Analysis told eWEEK his firm is forecasting that the NAND flash-powered PCIe interface will become dominant in the enterprise solid-state disk market in 2012, with unit shipments greater than the combined shipments of its SAS and Fibre Channel counterparts.

We agree, especially on the use of NAND flash in general, whether or not it's found on a PCIe card. Everywhere we look, we're seeing IT managers and corporate IT decision-makers adding-or planning to add-SSDs into their mixes.

Intel launched PCIe in 2004. It is an expansion-card standard based on point-to-point serial links rather than a shared parallel bus architecture, and it is designed to replace the older PCI, PCI-X and AGP standards.

PCIe-based flash storage has the ability to bypass traditional storage overhead by reducing latencies, increasing throughput and enabling efficient processing of massive quantities of data.

"SAS is the heir apparent to Fibre Channel, and newer servers and storage arrays support multiple SAS HDDs, some or all of which can be replaced by these new SAS SSDs to add performance with little additional effort," Handy said. "Objective Analysis expects to see strong acceptance of SAS SSDs over the near term as more and more data center managers learn the advantage of adding solid-state storage to their systems."

Virtual machine image cloning as an alternative to snapshots: Oracle has a leg up on this one. Its new VirtualBox 4.1 includes a new virtual machine cloning facility-one of the first on the market.

"Right now, when you have a virtual machine running, you create a snapshot, which is a child of the current virtual machine," Wim Coekaerts, who serves as Oracle's senior vice president of Linux and Virtualization Engineering, told eWEEK. "But that's not something that can independently grow afterward. With a clone, you have a new entity that can then have its own life and, subsequently, its own snapshots."

A snapshot is an object and a part of the virtual disk; it's not able to be copied onto any other servers and used in any way. Users don't have any visibility into it, Coekaerts said.

Clones are a completely new virtual disk object, independent units that can have new lives of their own. "From then on, you now have a unit that is like a VM created from scratch, so you can treat it as such," Coekaerts said. This will be good news for IT managers and VDI admins, although it may serve up some new issues when it comes to VM propagation.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...