iSCSI is not just the poor man’s SAN

In the latest of his Inside the Enterprise columns, Stephen Pritchard turns his attention to the world of storage.

Storage networking has reached the high street. But that's no reason for enterprises to dismiss it.

Moore's Law is most closely linked with the processing power of computers. But the trend for IT equipment to become more powerful, and cost less money, is by no means confined to the CPU. Just look at smartphones.

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Storage is one area where improvements have tended to lag behind, however. The physics of spinning disks which need motors, ball bearings and other mechanical parts stand to benefit less from the falling cost of transistors than microprocessors or RAM.

The cost of storage is falling steadily, however, and you can now pick up a 1TB hard drive, in a retail package on the high street, for under 80. But more interesting still is how device manufacturers are re-packaging those basic drives into a range of increasingly intelligent, and useful, devices.

This is a development that is particularly useful to any business that needs to store more information (that's most of them, then).

As a journalist, for example, data storage might not seem that important. But as well as writing this column, that means producing video and audio content. The growing demand from publishers for that content means that data storage is almost as important as a stock of notepads and pens.

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Tapes and Minidiscs have given way to video cameras and audio recorders that use SD or Compact Flash cards, and all that information needs to live somewhere. At the last count, this office housed around 14TB (yes, terabytes) of data, and the total is still growing.

Bringing some semblance of order to all this storage prompted a mission to explore the field of networked storage. This means weighing up the pros and cons of various NAS drives and storage area networks.

A few years ago, a storage area network was at least a five-figure investment. Prices have fallen since, but even so, it was a surprise to find that a basic, storage area network device is available for around 250. Apparently you can even buy one in Harrods.

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