SNW Europe: The teardrop explodes

Steve Cassidy ponders just how much storage we need, whether virtualised or not, as he looks back on his time at Storage Networking World (SNW) Europe.

OK, there are probably more Michael Jackson lookalike performers working full-time and earning a good living, than there are datacentres large enough to have this problem. It is an immensely specialised, and expensive, large-scale business. It can often seem impossible to stare up at the massive cliff of the jump in spending necessary to get to a fully fledged SAN and figure out either how to approach it in small increments, or even explain to your FD what he's getting for his shekels.

I was massively encouraged to find a small stands at the show which demonstrates pretty much instantly how to start the walk up to a different, faster, centralised storage architecture. The reality of the majority of the PC servers out there is that they are kind of old (pre-recession purchases) and they have been set up to look and feel rather a lot like a desktop PC. This can in the very worst case mean that there's just one logical disk, with just one partition on it, and very often that's known as Drive C. How very 1991, I hear you say.

There are probably more Michael Jackson lookalike performers working full-time and earning a

good living, than there are datacentres large enough to have this problem.

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While it could be argued that's a bit of a selective example, the takeaway from the worst case is that a lot of businesses make do with servers running just one logical disk, made of a pool of physicals all attached to one card inside one server box. It's not easy to find a low cost experiment that shows just how much performance is locked away by those choices but Viking Memory may well have such a thing. It has made a SATA SSD on a DDR3 DIMM board.

The DIMM slot just holds the assembly still, and provides power. There's a diddly controller and SATA connector in the midpoint of the slot, facing upwards. You will need to give this device a controller to connect to, and then use the controller firmware to build a logical drive out of SATADIMMs. This adds a whole separate storage channel to an underspecified, single-box DAS server.

Viking says it reckons there are almost no DDR3 equipped servers out in the installed base in which all the DIMM slots or PCI/PCI-Express slots are full, and I see no reason to doubt those claims.

Perhaps it seems like the inverse of Hubris for me to draw your attention to adding just one logical drive to a humble isolated server simply because there's some spare power and available little plastic clips to receive an ingenious hardware hack, when looking around a storage show that concentrates on the absolute top end of the business and deals in the most up to date 21st-century metric of storage (the "petabyte per floortile", a unit I've yet to see acronymised).

My ultimate observation was that each scale of storage, from SATA DIMMs up through all those scale-out low-CAPEX mega-sized managed clouds of storage, displayed the same signs of high-speed rates of data growth, with customers trying to squeeze the most out of the top of one architecture rather than making that painful big leap up to the next level.

In my defence, I should point out that I could not find a single person there, from Dell's EMEA sales director right through to Taiwanese vendors with their neat little basic RAID enclosures, who disagreed with me.

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