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Who needs storage that does it all?

There's a bunch of storage technologies out there that promise to save you money by packing more data on the media. Most are tuned for particular scenarios so it's rare to find all of them thrown into mix at once -- but one company, Greenbytes, seems to have done just that.
Written by Manek Dubash, Contributor on

There's a bunch of storage technologies out there that promise to save you money by packing more data on the media. Most are tuned for particular scenarios so it's rare to find all of them thrown into mix at once -- but one company, Greenbytes, seems to have done just that.

Conventional wisdom has it that some technologies are best suited to production data, stored on tiers one and two storage, while others are more better for backup and archive, seen as tiers three and four. So for example, a technology such as thin provisioning is perceived primarily as a tier one and two technique, as it allows you to provision more storage than you actually possess.

The advantage here is that you can describe a storage space to an OS or an application as being 50TB when in fact it's only 10TB, then you add more as existing storage fills up, saving you the cost of buying, managing and powering that extra 40TB upfront.

Deduplication, the process of examining every block of data and saving it only once, is starting to become common in tiers three and four. It's generally seen as a technique for saving space when backing up, as typical backups consist of vast amounts of duplication, especially OS files; vendors cite ratios of 20 or even 50 to one as typical.

Right down at tier four, MAID can be found. No, not what you think. A massive array of idle disks, MAID is a technology developed principally by failed company Copan, for the purposes of eliminating tape from archives. Tape's big plus point is that it takes zero energy to retain while disks consume power constantly. If you switch off most of the disks in a large array, while retaining only the index on a constantly-spinning device, then you can save power big-time in a large enterprise environment. That's the theory -- MAID hasn't taken the market by storm, mainly because nervous storage managers haven't been keen to trust their precious archives to a relatively untried technology, and because startup times for a MAID can be lengthy.

But what if you threw all those - and others - into a single storage system? Greenbytes has done this with its new GB-X Series. Why? Sales VP Rich Shea explained to me that: "We want to bring efficiencies to mainstream storage. Even with generic data [ie not backup] you can get 3-5x capacity increase [with deduplication]." He reckoned you can still achieve storage saving ratios of around 3:1 or 4:1. And MAID? Shea reckons energy-efficiency is what enterprises of the future will be looking for and MAID delivers just that.

And when I asked whether enterprises wanted a storage system that was a jack-of-all-trades, Shea said: "People can use it as they want as their storage needs unfold. It's very hard right now to guess where your storage requirements are going but with us, you don't need to."

So there you have it: a system that does everything. But is there a market for it?

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