Enterprise storage is a broad category that includes products and services designed to assist large organizations with saving and retrieving digital information. Unlike consumer or small business storage devices, enterprise storage can handle large volumes of data and large numbers of users. It usually involves centralized storage repositories, such as storage area networks (SANs) or network-attached storage (NAS) devices.
Enterprise storage can be broken down into several categories. Primary storage houses the data that end users are actively accessing. Backup storage contains copies of the information in primary storage for use in disaster recovery situations or in other circumstances where a secondary copy is necessary. Backup storage is closely related to archive storage, which is where enterprises keep outdated information that needs to be saved for compliance or other purposes.
Organizations can choose to purchase and deploy on-premises enterprise storage systems, or they can choose to store their data with an external cloud computing service. The advantage of on-premises enterprise storage is that the organization retains complete control of the hardware and data, satisfying some security and compliance concerns. On the other hand, cloud-bases enterprise storage simplifies storage management and may lower costs in some cases. Some companies take a hybrid approach and use a combination of both on-premise and cloud-based storage.
One of the key benefits of enterprise storage solutions is that they enable file sharing and collaboration among workers. Many offer security features, such as user-based permissions, that aren't commonly found in consumer storage solutions. Enterprise storage also offers better performance, reliability, availability and scalability than other types of storage solutions.
Storage networking and management
Enterprise storage devices utilize similar technology as consumer and small business storage solutions. However, enterprise data storage generally offers higher reliability, availability and scalability. As a result, enterprise storage generally costs more than consumer or small business storage. It also usually requires more time and expertise to set up, while many consumer storage vendors takes a plug-and-play approach, and enterprise storage networks are typically run by specialized personnel or administrators.
Terms frequently associated with enterprise storage include storage networking, which is the linking of storage devices with each other and other computer systems, and storage management, which includes technology and processes that help organizations control and maintain their storage systems.
Enterprise storage implementation
When you decide to deploy a new enterprise storage system, you face a number of choices. First, you must decide whether to design and build your own storage system or to utilize a cloud-based storage service. If you decide to use a cloud computing service, you won't have to make very many decisions about the hardware and network architecture, because the cloud vendor will handle those for you. Generally, the deployment steps for cloud storage will be fairly simple: Select a cloud service that meets your needs, sign up for the service and configure it to work with your existing applications and networks. Your most important task will be researching the services to make sure that you get one that can meet your needs and work with your current infrastructure.
If you decide to build your own storage system, you'll have to make some additional decisions .For example, you'll need to select which storage media to use: Tape, hard disk drives (HDDs) or solid state drives (SSDs). Tape is the least expensive medium, but its performance and capabilities generally make it suitable only for backup and archive applications. HDDs are more expensive than tape, but they offer the higher performance necessary for primary storage. SSDs cost the most of all, but they offer much better performance and reliability than either tape or HDDs. Many organizations use a mix of tape, HDDs and SSDs, and some storage devices themselves include a mix of HDDs and SSDs.
You'll also need to decide on your storage architecture. Enterprise storage can include direct-attached storage (DAS), storage area networks (SANs) or network-attached storage (NAS) devices. DAS devices connect directly to an individual PC or server and don't offer the same collaboration capabilities as networked storage. However, you do gain collaboration benefits from SAN and NAS devices. SANs provide block-level storage for access by servers, while NAS devices offer file-level storage for access by end users. Many organizations use a combination of DAS, NAS and SAN devices.
You'll also need to choose which network protocol you'll use. Your options include the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP), Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) and Internet SCSI (iSCSI) protocol. The type of storage architecture you select will impact which network protocol(s) you can use. For example, Fibre Channel and iSCSI are SAN protocols, while NAS is an IP storage protocol. Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) has emerged as one way for Ethernet and Fibre Channel networks to converge.
The steps for deploying on-premises storage networks involve setting up the physical hardware and cables, migrating data (if necessary), configuring the devices and testing the system.
Enterprise storage vendors
Companies that sell enterprise storage hardware include the following:
- Direct Data Networks (DDN)
- Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)
- Promise Technology
- Tandberg Data
Companies that offer cloud-based enterprise storage include the following:
- ADrive Enterprise
- Amazon Web Services
- Microsoft Windows Azure
Open source projects related to enterprise storage include the following:
- iSCSI Enterprise Target
Cisco, Brocade, Emulex and QLogic are the biggest makers of enterprise storage networking switches and adapters.
Enterprise storage technology
One of the primary organizations involved in setting standards for the enterprise storage industry is the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA). It has published numerous standards, including the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), Solid State Storage Performance Test Specification (SSS PTS) and the eXtensible Access Method (XAM) specification.
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