"In recent years, there has been a veritable explosion in terms of data. Now, enterprises are gathering and analyzing as much data as they can from a range of different sources to glean valuable insights about their clients, competitors, emerging trends or new business strategies to name a few. And for many, this approach has paid off.
Data Explosion: Need for Storage
However, this considerable increase in data - both in terms of creation and usage - comes with a very important trade-off: In order to call upon and utilize this information, businesses must have a place to store it.
According to estimates from IDC, the amount of global data reached roughly 2.7 zettabytes in 2012. IDC predicts that number will double again by 2015 and continue to double every two years after that. A zettabyte is 1000 exabytes (which is 1000 petabytes, which is 1000 terabytes, which is 1000 gigabytes). To put it in other terms, a zettabyte is the equivalent of 250 billion DVDs, or the same volume of the Great Wall of China.
""This sort of data growth clearly requires heroic amounts of storage to keep it available for as long as it's required, and to archive much of it thereafter,"" ZDNet contributor Charles McLellan pointed out.
And while the typical businesses won't be storing anywhere near this level of information, today's companies still need a safe environment in which to store and archive their data.
Data Storage Options
Currently, there are several options available for storage, including Network Attached Storage (NAS), Storage Area Network (SAN) and Software Defined Storage (SDS).
Network Attached Storage (NAS)
TechTarget's Margaret Rouse explained that network attached storage is an environment that includes dedicated files which enable file-based shared storage for local area network nodes. Users leverage a standard Ethernet connection to access the dedicated files and share them with others users within the LAN. Because the NAS exists within a siloed LAN node, it has its own IP address and can be flexibly expanded by adding larger disks or clustering NAS appliances.
Some of the main advantages of NAS include performance and convenience, Dabs noted. NAS commonly comes as an alternative to hard drives, as the technology allows several users on different devices to access the dedicated files.
Storage Area Network (SAN)
Rouse noted that a storage area network, or SAN, incorporates a high-speed network to interconnect and make shared pools of storage devices accessible. The system uses multiple servers for this environment, enabling storage resources to be migrated from the user network to a dedicated, high-performance network. A SAN also includes cabling, host adapters and switches. The physical connections here must be able provide the necessary bandwidth to support simultaneous user activities.
While these environments are known for being a bit difficult to manage, a SAN can be helpful for disaster recovery and application availability.
Software Defined Storage (SDS)
Software defined storage, or SDS, allows activities related to storage to be decoupled from hardware elements, putting the emphasis on service as opposed to appliance components. SDS enables more efficient use of available virtual storage resources, and policy-based management makes helps streamline its use. In this way, businesses can leverage commodity hardware to establish a software defined storage environment and create a shared storage pool for easier access."