How to find the perfect storage array

 In Hardware, Storage

If your organization is like most, your storage array is one of your most valuable assets and also one of your biggest headaches to manage. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In a perfect world, there would be an ideal storage array, one that not only solves the most common problems in maintaining storage but also makes it easy and simple to get the best performance out of the system.

Here are five of the most common issues that limit how quickly and how effectively organizations can use their arrays, and how the perfect array might solve them:

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  1. Finding storage array administrators. Even when you’re able to find good storage array admins, they don’t come cheap. Most environments are highly virtualized and storage that runs highly virtualized workloads is difficult to manage. Some organizations spend a lot of time trying to get the most performance out of it when it’s easier to simply set it and forget it.
  2. Configuring arrays. Most organizations would like the arrays to do the hard work for them rather than struggle through the complexity of configuring them. For example, now that the need for thin provisioning and deduplication is a given at most organizations, it’s much easier to have them on all the time and have the array use them by default. That way you don’t even have to set the policy or feature because if the array’s up and running, it’s already thin provisioned and de-duplicated.
  3. Knowing how much space is left. This is an important one, and yet with many systems it can be difficult to tell. The perfect storage array would have a single dashboard when you pull up the interface for managing the array, and from there, admins could easily identify the remaining capacity and know when to add more storage.
  4. Adding capacity. The process of adding new capacity should be simple and easy: Plug it in, route the cables, and it should be recognized and online almost immediately. Storage arrays require a lot of space, so one that takes up less floor, rack, or cabinet space with the same high capacity as those with a larger footprint is ideal. The aim should be consolidation, virtualization, and simplification, with even greater performance.
  5. Using flash storage. It’s better to have flash storage seamlessly integrated with your current storage array so you don’t have to manage moving data back and forth between flash and other parts of the array. And ideally the array should do this for you so you never have to worry about proper design and ongoing administration.

What the perfect storage array looks like

With these five difficulties in mind, if I had to design the perfect array, it would be simple to use, require almost no training and little administration, and do all the hard work for you.

There would be no special configuration for optimizing space or performance — it would optimize all of that for you already, presenting a pool of storage that would provide the best possible performance all the time and that you could simply start assigning to your physical or virtual hosts.

It would be aware of virtual environments and be able to work with, recognize, and integrate with current industry standard virtual environments like Microsoft and VMware.

How to spot the perfect storage array

Most vendors will argue that they do all this already. But the differences lie in exactly how the features are implemented, and how much effort administrators have to go through to enable them or get the array to work the way they want it to.

To find out if the array is really the perfect one for you, request a demo and a proof of concept. See for yourself whether the management console interface is easy to use. Ask for performance metrics for the arrays under similar conditions as in your organization. Look for an upgrade document that describes how to add storage and see how simple it really is – five steps or 50? And perhaps most importantly, give support a call and see how quickly they could get back to you with an answer.

There are plenty of options for storage arrays out there. But over the long term, some will require more hassle and effort and still might not provide the best performance. But by giving an array a real world test, you can see firsthand how much effort it’ll require to get up and running and maintain. By doing so, you just might find a storage array that’s perfect.

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