Analyst View: Scalability is a multidimensional challenge

Posted on January 01, 2009

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BY BILL MOTTRAM

Traditionally, scalability has been myopically viewed in terms of capacity growth demands and addressed by simply adding more storage. However, an extreme rate of data growth, greater demands for online data availability and accessibility, and a growing demand for operational efficiencies (power, space, management), are all trends that question the viability of this lazy man’s approach to managing storage growth. Unfortunately, however, this tradition still lingers in many enterprises.

Scalability is a multidimensional challenge, and while just one of many selection criteria, its importance requires deeper examination. Data growth, increasing application demand, service-level expectations, and vendors’ product roadmaps should be understood and balanced when considering the complex question of scalability.

Data growth. While data growth is not a traditional scalability metric, understanding the nature of your data should be a priority. Is it highly active, transactional data or inactive, persistent (fixed content) data? Different data types have different characteristics that drive different storage requirements, which in turn drive key cost factors (CapEx and OpEx) and ongoing servicedelivery growth options.

What tools are available to simplify datamanagement, data migration, and data classification? Also consider data footprintreduction tools, such as compression anddata de-duplication.

Capacity growth. Will capacity expand easily and transparently to match data growth over a predetermined time horizon? Are capacity optimization tools available, such as thin provisioning, compression, and datade-duplication? Does performance easilyincrease with capacity? How easily can larger capacity drives be added to the array?

Performance. It is also important to understand future application growth. Will it drive an increase in supported users, increase the time sensitivity of the data, and/or increase the complexity of queries and workloads? These are all business-driven requirements that drive greater demand for I/O performance and faster response time expectations. How easily and transparently can performance be increased?

Time. Scaling through time means that the storage system can be upgraded easily with newer technology as it becomes available and extend the life of the product, which drives a greater return on the initialinvestment. Understand the vendor’s roadmap and match it to future requirements. Always question roadmap deliverables that are beyond six months and, of course, do not expect vendors to deliver in the timeframe they forecast.

Careful up-front planning for future growth, whether it is capacity, performance, or time, requires an understanding of the future needs of the organization, and investing in such planning can save considerable heartburn and unnecessary expense.

 


BILL MOTTRAM is a managing partner at Veridictus Associates and an analyst with Data Mobility. He can be contacted at: bill@veridictusassociates.com, and blogs at www.storagetopics.com
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