5 Advantages to Servers as Storage

By Kyle Christopher

Over the years, the pendulum has swung back and forth between server-attached-storage and dedicated storage resources. The current trend is with intelligent shared storage, yet without the familiar external storage array.

I’ve been asked many times recently, “Kyle, are servers the new storage?” It’s a great question. The idea of using familiar, commodity-based servers to provide shared storage services has been very popular in the history of data storage.

Why Use Servers as Storage?

I’m glad you asked. Using standard industry servers as the basis of a storage array isn’t new. You typically find familiar designs in the storage array marketplace: two or more server nodes with low-latency connections and intelligent software that turns commodity hardware into a useful storage array. Most storage pros are using this approach these days. However, the model hasn’t changed: Storage array vendors still sell and support a box, it’s just made of familiar components.

“But what about customers who source their own hardware then simply install software to transform servers into shared storage?”

Truth be told, my prediction is that we’re going to be seeing this model more and more, and for several reasons. Here they are.

1. Performance

A lot of storage performance boils down to flash. You pay a little extra and get an incredible amount of speed. Even putting a small amount of flash in an external hybrid array will see significant performance boosts that make all applications run faster. Put that same flash on a server bus and it gets even faster and cheaper than any external array. In sum, flash economics will strongly favor a server-resident approach over time which means that the technology decisions will be moved away from storage teams to server teams.

2. Convergence

When we talk about convergence, we also talk about the operational model being converged as well, in addition to technology being collapsed. Convergence is a good thing all around: fewer moving parts, integrated workflows and more. By moving storage to an extension of the VMware administrators, the need for a dedicated storage team could disappear.

3. Pooling

The bigger the pool, the more opportunity for optimizing your resources. Instead of one pool for compute and one for storage, what if we brought both functions into the same pool? Considering your server and storage resources as one entity results in a shared compatible pool, which is very attractive, both economically and operationally.

4. Simplicity

It’s just easier. Fewer vendors, greater buying power, standardized tools and operational processes are all advantages to the user.

5. Low Priced Hardware

Since you can turn commodity hardware into a useful storage array, have you considered repurposing your current hardware or buying preowned? The advantages are many, especially when you consider all the maintenance and support options found with independent resellers.

For a look at the counterarguments, go check out Chuck’s blog over at EMC. He offers a look at the points mentioned above as well as some of the arguments against servers as storage.

What do you think? Are servers the new storage? Are there disadvantages to this approach? How will big data affect this trend? We’d like to hear your thoughts.

Comment below or contact us to see how we can help you stay ahead of the curve and be ready for new trends in storage technology.