Not all data is created equal.

SAN’s and Storage Tiering: Difficult Situations Inspire Ingenious Solutions.  

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” – Thomas Jefferson, US Declaration of Independence 

While it is self-evident people are created equal, it is also self-evident to IT professionals managing application infrastructure that not all data is created equal.

In the late 1980’s through the 1990’s, Information Technology was only used by a small number of distinct applications – Financial Systems, Document Creation and one or two custom applications, all with dedicated hardware.  Data sets were small.  For most companies, the number of applications that pushed the performance envelope could be counted on one hand.  The primary purpose of consolidated storage platforms in that era was enabling high availability for applications by providing redundant storage architecture and supporting clustering at the server level.

As database technologies, ERP applications, Electronic Data Interchange, Web-Enabled ecommerce applications, Business Intelligence, Multimedia and now social media have been integrated into all aspects of the enterprise, both the performance and capacity limits of storage architectures have been challenged.  The mid-range SCSI based storage architectures were limited in scale and connectivity.  Additionally, mainframe based Tier 1 storage could rarely be cost justified in the growing world of “Open Systems”.

Further complicating the situation for IT professionals at the time was the strain on IT Capital and Operating Budgets.  From early 2000 through 2004, budgets experienced significant contraction due to the overspending of the Y2K and dot.com eras and the recession of 2002 and 2003. The axiom that necessity is the mother of invention held true and a new era of innovation was born.

Many of the foundational elements of today’s storage infrastructures were invented or experienced higher rates of adoption during this period.  Networked Storage, both Network Attached Storage (NAS) for multi-protocol file service and Fibre Channel Storage Area Networks (SAN’s) for scalable block-based storage with greater connectivity were an outgrowth of the response to the needs and business pressures of this time.

Other key technologies such as iSCSI for lower cost block storage and SATA for Disk to Disk Backup and lower cost Fibre Channel alternatives enable Infrastructure Architects to create tiers in the hardware architecture.  Enabling the costs of infrastructure to align more closely with the criticality of the application and the value of its data has played a large role in widening the uses of technology in the enterprise.

Change is the only constant in life, especially the life of the IT professional.  So the next time you find yourself facing difficult challenges, know that the light at the end of the tunnel is a wave of innovation enabling you to do greater things than you can currently imagine.

This post is part of the Choose Your Own Infrastructure Series

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About Ferrol Macon

Ferrol Macon’s career for more than 20 years has lived at the intersection of people and technology. He has been a part of designing storage and data management solutions for companies large and small in almost every industry.