A series of technologies entered the storage market in the past year. These products are part of a new deployment model the Yankee Group refers to as grid storage. Unlike grid computing, which has taken longer to evolve due to the complexity of connecting multiple computers across multiple locations, grid storage marks the continued march to industry-standard building blocks for deploying and managing storage.
To be considered grid storage, a product must include most of the following ingredients (exemplified by a number of vendors that have begun to deliver initial products):
Nonetheless, grid storage will affect how customers deploy storage in a number of areas.
First, vendors will deliver new generation storage arrays with the ability to increase capacity and performance by adding additional storage nodes to a shared network storage environment. Startups such as Compellent (which offers new modular storage) and 3PAR (which offers utility storage) use the modular storage model to deliver different kinds of network storage.
The network attached storage (NAS) market will be a second area of impact for grid storage. In the last 5 years, customers have begun to deploy distributed file systems to support complex requirements, many times focused on the high-performance technical computing market. Many enterprise customers saw management costs increase as they added new NAS systems, in effect creating islands of storage. However, distributed file systems that provide a common view of files across multiple NAS nodes (which can be modular storage arrays or gateways) help solve the management problems found in traditional NAS environments. We consider these emerging platforms grid storage because of their design and deployment models. Network Appliance (Spinnaker), Isilon Systems, IBM, Exanet and Panasas have products in this segment.
The growing content storage market, driven by a mix of growing digital content and regulatory compliance requirements, is a third area grid storage will impact. Although there is some overlap with traditional and distributed file system-based NAS environments, a growing number of storage environments use an object-based, multi-node storage environments in which files are tracked based on unique identifiers. A number of vendors already offer products in this segment, including Hewlett-Packard, EMC and Permabit.
Growing regulatory requirements mandate the protection, ease of access, data integrity and security of various kinds of corporate information that must be stored for electronic discovery and data retention programs. One could consider the architectures of systems grid storage because they are based on redundancy between nodes that spread access and management of content across multiple nodes. Additionally, from a management perspective, we could classify products that enable the migration and mobility of data across multiple nodes within the storage environment (data mobility, data protection or file management) as grid storage (products from ExaGrid and Rainfinity fit into this category).
Finally, we believe grid storage will have a significant impact on the migration to a storage utility model, which requires the delivery of storage as a service. Grid storage will also complement a number of broader data center trends, such as the emergence of IP-based storage, blade servers, and server virtualization and policy-based management strategies.