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EMC FAST Brings Storage Tiering To Fibre Channel, SATA And Flash

EMC today unveiled FAST, or "fully automated storage tiering" software, that analyzes data usage in its storage arrays and automatically moves data to the most optimal tier for performance, whether Fibre Channel, SATA or flash drives. The software works with EMC's Symmetrix V-Max and Clariion CX4 networked storage systems and its NS unified system. The software, which is delivered as a firmware update, is available today. Prices start at $5,000 for entry-level systems and $22,000 for Symmetrix.

FAST can be configured by hand based on a time window, service-level agreements or other parameters. For instance, an ERP application might see limited activity for most of the month, but when it's time to close the books, you want the fastest access possible. That would be a good time to move the app and its data to flash drives. EMC uses 3.5-inch for-factor STEC solid state drives, with read speeds of around 350MB/s.

While traditional monitoring tools provide some guidance as to what to move, EMC senior product manager Scott Delandy says FAST is like a DVR vs. a VCR. "You can set a VCR to record one show. But a DVR you set it once to record the whole season." However, FAST isn't a replacement for storage management software, which customers will still need for daily operational requirements such as error detection and correction, hot-swap replacement, wear leveling and other drive optimization procedures, as well as imminent failure warnings.

According to Delandy, FAST provides historical performance metrics for setting up charge back scenarios, and also supports integration with private clouds and external cloud service providers. In the near future, FAST will support tapping such services "to seamlessly federate placement and movement of file-based and unstructured data," says Delandy.

Other future capabilities include sub-LUN isolation, which Delandy says will make resource utilization more efficient by controlling access at the block level. "You'll be able to use a lot less flash but get the same performance benefits by tiering at a more granular level." Also expected in FAST early next year are block- and file-level deduplication, data compression, disk drive spin down, built-in archiving and private and public cloud federation.