Federated Storage: The Next Step in Efficiency

Federated Storage: The Next Step in Efficiency
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Unite disparate storage resources under central management and reap the benefits of Federated Storage.

Let’s begin with a scenario. Imagine your data center and its resource silos.

In one area, there are racks of servers for computation. In another, you have tiers of magnetic disk and perhaps SSD storage. In another, there’s a stack of networking gear. But let’s go one step more and say that you have five data centers spread around the country, each with the same basic layout and resource stacks.

Federated Storage UnitesFederated Storage UnitesYour admin is sitting in San Diego, and he gets a call from Bob in Austin, TX. Bob needs another terabyte of high-performance storage and six virtual machines to set up his new application. Now the admin must figure out whether the data center in Dallas has the best resources for Bob. Or does Bob get his storage from Dallas and his compute from Tucson? The decisions turn into a juggling act that drains the admin’s schedule and will likely require downtime across multiple locations.

If your data center resources resemble this typical legacy architecture scenario, then you may benefit considerably from federated storage. Literally, “to federate” means to cause to join into a union or similar association, thus “federated” means to be united under a central government.

In our context, that means having disparate storage resources united under central management. Not surprisingly, this is most easily accomplished in a converged storage environment. Our hypothetical admin wouldn’t have to pore over resource utilization logs from each possible data center. Rather, a federated storage system would analyze the request for storage and compute resources, poll each federated data center in real-time, and assign the optimal resources from each pertinent site. The process is nearly hands-off and transparent to the admin, who simply inputs the request.

As we’ve touched on in prior articles, converged storage is a modern storage architecture that relies on virtualized storage software writing on a high-volume, cost-effective server platform. This platform, rather than being an isolated resource silo, is part of a common architecture stack that spans compute, storage, and networking resources.

At the low-end, converged storage may reside in a single box, such as a blade enclosure. At the high-end, converged storage is more focused on the management layer, spanning multiple locations. This is where federated storage shows its advantages most often.

“For example, shift your environment from serving blocks today to files tomorrow to Windows Server the day after that,” says Craig Nunes, vice president of marketing for HP Storage. “Server and storage assets can ebb and flow based on demand. That’s the vision for converged storage. Federation is a feature of converged storage. Federation allows you to take a broader storage resource, such as many arrays in your data center, and begin to treat them as a single resource pool.”

William Van Winkle has been a full-time tech writer and author since 1998. He specializes in a wide range of coverage areas, including unified communications, virtualization, Cloud Computing, storage solutions and more. William lives in Hillsboro, Oregon with his wife and 2.4 kids, and—when not scrambling to meet article deadlines—he enjoys reading, travel, and writing fiction. See here for all of William's Tom's IT Pro articles.

(Shutterstock cover image credit: Binary Hard Drive)


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