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Customer-Centric Storage

Faced with new application requirements, customers are considering how to make their storage architectures more flexible, cost-effective, and easier to manage with faster response cycles to update services.

The focus on storage solutions is shifting, and plans are becoming more customized. It is safe to say that customers want more capacity, higher performance, and better scalability across the board. However, as the application environments of customers all vary greatly, attention must be given to the details of each IT agenda and storage build.

Now, halfway through the second decade of the 21st century, the “third platform” that includes mobile devices, social media, cloud computing, and Big Data, needs modern technical resources to serve mission-critical applications. The openness and flexibility of cloud computing requires storage solutions capable of providing on-demand scale-out, scale-up, and scale-down options to suit dynamic application needs. Achieving these storage performance options has required many engineering innovations in market where customers expect highly streamlined deployment and management processes.

Simplicity is at the heart of Huawei’s customer-centric mindset, and our focus remains on fully tapping the trends in hardware and software systems convergence in the area of storage.

Driving Force behind Storage

Software-Defined Storage (SDS) is a component subsystem within the converged cloud architecture that has been designed to support the overall objective of dynamically changing service requirements based on real-time fluctuations in applications traffic. As is happening with networks and infrastructures, storage products are now also being engineered to separate the control and data planes such that customers are able to manage their technical resources at a group-policy level, independent of the low-level mechanics of each device.

Based on Flash memory arrays, the Huawei OceanStor DJ is a mass storage platform for the central management of data center resources, and is optimized for the transition of local storage systems to the cloud. OceanStor DJ offers new functionality to support the need for enterprises that are moving from simple data storage to higher levels of data management services.

Huawei’s service-driven storage products use service-driven storage controllers to unify storage platforms and general-purpose servers into single resource pools able to implement intelligent management and scheduling. In addition, upper-layer applications can be assigned custom Service Level Agreement (SLA) resources, with the result that storage resources become automated and flexible.

Focus on Customer Needs

The core of the SDS storage process is that all functionality, including the management of storage resource pools, is implemented in software — and eventually, the complexity of managing heterogeneous storage will also be resolved in software.

SDS technologies are still in their earliest stages of commercial development, and each different vendor will surely approach their product offerings with a unique point of view. So, while the working principles of the SDS products between different vendors may vary greatly, the core focus of addressing customer needs by maximizing flexibility will remain constant.

In all cases, SDS is designed to unlock the full capabilities of mass storage hardware platforms, and virtualization techniques enable the deployment of unified resource management layers to organize scheduling and other high-level activities.

Tapping the Power of Convergence

The new norm in data centers and other IT infrastructures are converged resource pools able to schedule and allocate assets with maximum flexibility.

The effect of this convergence is that SDS systems have become more powerful, efficient, and intelligent for mid-range and high-end markets when compared to the preceding generation of “unified” Storage Area Network (SAN) and Network-Attached Storage (NAS) solutions that nonetheless remained separated from the servers.

A key feature of modern convergent systems is the on-demand access to centrally controlled, multiple function resource pools that have blurred the lines between server, storage, and network components. During system set-up, the OceanStor OS operating system conducts a self-configuration analysis to determine the precise requirements for each particular cloud data center configuration.

With OceanStor OS at the core, Huawei’s converged storage systems implement five convergence types — SAN and NAS; Solid-State Drive (SSD) and Hard Disk Drive (HDD); a single OS for entry-, mid-, and high-end systems; integrated backup; and heterogeneous device support — that, when combined, help users eliminate data islands.

Leveraging All-Flash Arrays

The emergence of all-Flash arrays onto the market gave rise to predictions that Flash would eventually become the only storage media used in data centers. And, as with every such projection, those who doubt aloud that this will ever be completely true. To date, considering whatever evolutions in storage are ahead of us, and whatever numbers of legacy, heterogeneous, HDD spinning platter platforms continue to be supported; there is no doubt that the population of all-Flash data center storage arrays is growing and poised to accelerate further.

Whatever may come in 2016, already on the market today are 4 TB enterprise-class SSD/Flash memories at storage costs far less than one dollar per gigabyte.

With continuous improvements in the reliability and availability of Flash memory — including the combined advantages of high performance, high density, low power consumption, and linear IOPS scaling — all-Flash arrays are moving from the “nice-to-have” column to the “must-have” column.

Clearly now quite mainstream, Flash memory has become the preferred form-factor for primary storage. Customers who require the highest performance in storage, such as the financial sector with high transaction volumes, are establishing a new baseline for the use of all-Flash arrays in enterprise data centers.

Huawei is actively collaborating in the further innovation of SSD controllers and Flash chips, which is leading us to increased accelerations in the installation of exabytes of on-line enterprise storage.

Whatever further revolutions will shake the storage field in years to come, we at Huawei are committed to maintaining a strong, customer-centric worldview — because it is only the storage products that fully address customer needs that will remain vital.

By Li Mingxiao

Senior Marketing Manager, IT Storage Product Line, Huawei Technologies, Inc.