Making the Case for Unified Storage

Unstructured data is growing exponentially and legacy storage infrastructure hamper efficiency, the use of analytics, and the ability to monetize data insights. Unified storage simply delivers data storage for any workload to any location ─ whether core, edge, or cloud.

By Gene Knauer

By Gene Knauer February 09, 2021

Today, the value of the data generated from the rapidly expanding universe of interconnected devices is immense. As each of these devices generate exponentially more data year over year, the ability to efficiently store and make that data instantly retrievable becomes more critical. And potentially more difficult.

In the office, at home and on the go, millions of network nodes are projected to increase enterprise data by 30% per year, according to Gartner, totaling 12 million petabytes of mostly unstructured data by 2030.

This data resides in file, block and object storage repositories with wholly different characteristics. And it now can be found from the data center core to the edge to clouds.

Block storage for enterprise databases where performance is key, according to Devon Helms, director of product marketing for storage services at Nutanix. 

“File storage for end user data is structured into directories,” he said. “Object data for large pools of data need to be accessed by applications directly.”

The question of how to make all of this data readily available for services and applications has motivated a new approach to storage that goes beyond rigid, legacy, siloed storage architectures. As workloads move between the network core on-premise to hybrid and multicloud environments and the network edge, a simplified, unified storage environment – one that is readily available for applications and users – is desperately needed to better manage and monetize all of this data.

It’s called unified storage.

The 5-Year Storage Plan is Obsolete 

Organizations using legacy storage plan for their needs 3 to 5 years into the future and purchase all of that capacity on day 1, explained Helms. 

“Integrating new storage for workloads is disruptive and not having the storage you need when you need it can bring workloads to a halt,” he said. “So purchasing for the future makes sense with legacy storage systems. Organizations also purchase storage to meet current and future performance and feature needs. This often leads to overprovisioning as a buffer in case of future changes in needs.”

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But when data is created or consumed across anywhere from the core to the edge to the cloud, organizations can not afford to deploy capacity to meet all the different needs of all the different workloads today, let alone 5 years out, Helms continued.

“The 5 year plan and purchase model of legacy storage is not supportable in the new data anywhere world,” he said.

Organizations can no longer deploy siloed storage for each workload, built and provisioned to support the needs of today and the needs of the predicted future. Instead, there’s a need for malleable storage infrastructure that can expand without disruption, change performance characteristics on the fly by adding virtual resources, and meet changing workload needs through software instead of hardware, Helms said. 

“This allows for data to be made available across the various creation and consumption locations without provisioning entire data centers for each.”

Unified Storage

Digital transformation is about delivering services and business outcomes faster at scale, and this requires new tools, according to Helms. 

“Supporting data access where it's created and consumed is critical and a unified approach to storage delivery is foundational,” he said. “Unified storage provides a software-based, consolidated storage solution on top of many flexible shared-nothing nodes. Pooling resources and putting the intelligence in the software layer creates flexibility of scale allowing for deployments of any size that can fit any deployment location. 

He said this enables flexibility so as workloads and data resource needs change, the storage system can change to meet those needs. 

“Organizations only consume what they need, when they need it,” he said.  “This delays costs until they are necessary and allows for repurposing infrastructure resources to new tasks if and when they arise.

Self-Service vs. Larger IT Headcount

Some applications born in the cloud become more expensive to maintain there and may eventually move back on-premise, according to Greg Smith, vice president of product marketing at Nutanix. Until now this has required a new storage architecture. But no more.

“Now, using a unified storage stack that operates the same in the data center as it does in a third-party public cloud, data can seamlessly move back and forth to the cloud or on-premise as needed,” Smith said. “It’s a game-changer.”

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Instead of hiring more storage specialists, Smith said a unified storage platform allows IT to deliver storage resources for any location and workload, whenever they’re needed. Admins at remote sites can manage storage on the platform more effectively than with multiple systems. More people can use the unified storage platform to look for opportunities in data, rapidly innovate, and iterate.

Helms said a unified storage environment gives companies greater freedom and more control over their storage, whether workloads are deployed on-premise, in a hybrid cloud, or in a multicloud architecture. It provides access to more admins and data analysts who can optimize resources and operations and analyze and monetize the coming glut of unstructured data.

“Unified storage ticks all the boxes of digital transformation,” Helms said. “It provides the speed, scale, and simplicity that digital business will increasingly require.”

Gene Knauer is a contributing writer who specializes in IT and business topics. He is also the author of  Herding Goldfish: The Professional Content Marketing Writer in an Age of Digital Media and Short Attention Spans.

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