Storage: the shrinking form factor

StorageTek's BladeStore is an example of taking the blade-server approach to data storage.

Data storage will always be the bedrock of IT systems. That's why it's the object of such continuous and intense research and development.

What's next for data storage? It could be the incredible shrinking footprint'the possibility that, by today's standards, you actually will be able to put 10 pounds of data in a five-pound bag.
The demand certainly is there.

'Everything in our lives is digitized,' said Peter Gerr, a research analyst at the Enterprise Storage Group of Milford, Mass. 'We really are digital pack rats. We want to keep everything we do and that information is becoming the currency of our lives.'

He added: 'We're creating more data and what we're creating takes up more capacity, is retained for longer periods of time and has very specific needs for accessibility, security and privacy.'

Moreover, the nature of the data stored is changing. In a recent study, the Storage Enterprise Group predicted that reference information'including rich-content files such as document images, video files and computer-aided designs'will represent 54 percent of new government and corporate data by 2005, compared with 37 percent in 2001.

The demands of rich content on data storage will drive the need for more capacity, economies of scale, scalability and faster access to data, he said.

Then there's the footprint question.

'Density is a real issue today'packing as much storage power into the floor,' Gerr said.
One answer could be storage blades.

Server blades'complete, hot-swappable servers on a circuit board'slip into a chassis like books into a bookshelf. They pack a lot of computing power and scalability into a small space with little cabling and clutter.

An example of server blade design applied to storage is the BladeStore disk subsystem from Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) of Louisville, Colo.

BladeStore uses Advanced Technology Attachment disk drives on its boards for data storage, offering up to 1.25T of capacity per blade, said Dan Albright, senior product marketing manager for StorageTek. With 10 blades in an array, that adds up to 12.5T per 19-inch chassis.

Blade systems also could take advantage of the emerging 64-bit processors described elsewhere in this report.

Smaller footprints

Not everybody needs the sheer density of storage power that a blade system can yield, which Albright said is as much as 1.96G per cubic inch.

'There are clearly cases where real estate is a big factor and clearly the footprint of blade technology is much smaller than the footprint of any traditional rack,' said John Enck, a vice president and research director at Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn.

Also getting smaller are portable storage devices, low-cost Universal Serial Bus drives that feature tons of capacity and transfer speed (for a review of seven portable drives, see GCN, Aug. 29, 2002, Page 44, or go to www.gcn.com and enter 116 in the GCN.com/search box).

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