The key business benefits that come from this data-aware storage systems include the following:
- Customized Business Outcomes: These advanced data-awareness features should be tailored to a business’s needs and customized through open APIs. Data-aware storage can provide this capability by enabling easier integration into a business’s unique process management, allowing a business to get more value out of the storage.
- Mitigate Business Risk: Data-aware storage systems can provide compliance and risk mitigation features. Systems can provide alerts if the wrong type of information is stored in the wrong place. Other systems can provide fine-grained user access tracking. In addition, these systems can enforce retention policies based on compliance or security needs. Yet other systems can provide advanced data protection policies based on unique data awareness.
- Bending the Storage Management Cost Curve: Data-aware storage provides the extra information in real-time such that storage issues can be mitigated immediately and other storage management tasks can be automated through open APIs. Having a real-time pulse on all storage activity along with advanced analytics provides a more proactive management approach to storage and actually increases the value of storage as it grows.
- Cost-optimized Storage: This long overdue promise will now become increasingly true. The key to solving this problem is having the real-time metrics on the entire storage environment, which a data-aware system provides. Knowing which storage is being consumed by which business applications and at what quality of service is critical. In addition, tools are needed to move data to the appropriate type of storage to optimize cost. The only way to solve this problem is to have a data storage system that provides additional storage metrics in real-time all the time. In addition, some systems can provide very unique data optimization, archiving, compliance, and protection schemes.
Data-Aware Versus Application-Aware Storage
We should differentiate between data-aware storage and application-aware storage. Both terms are used in the industry to position products with any level of intelligence. Application-aware storage has some similarities with data-aware storage but also some differences. Application-awareness implies that the storage array is aware of some application attributes and/or the application is aware of some storage attributes in such a way that a) makes the interaction more intelligent and b) triggers some actions automatically to optimize/improve application performance and/or storage performance/utilization. Note that while data-aware storage attributes apply to all applications that are being served by that storage, application-aware storage is application specific.
Perhaps the clearest example of application-aware storage in the industry is that of Oracle's FS1 and ZS3/4 product lines. These products are general purpose and offer standard interfaces to support all applications. However, for Oracle applications they invoke special features and procedures that make those applications perform better than they would without them. For example, Oracle implements a special protocol called Oracle Intelligent Storage Protocol (OISP) that enables Oracle Database specific performance and capacity optimizations and assist with provisioning and management in the storage array. This allows Oracle to sell these storage products in the open market for all applications but provide enhanced performance, cost and manageability advantages for their own applications.
Data-awareness and application-awareness can, of course, coexist. A data-aware storage product can also be application-aware for certain applications. But an application-aware storage product may or may not be data-aware as we have defined it here.