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Searching for a New Storage Dynasty

Recent announcements by Compellent, DataDirect Networks, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM have demonstrated the rebirth and resurgence of high-performance computing and the need for extremely fast storage systems.

Not only is there a resurgence of high-performance computing in the making, Web 2.0 and Cloud Computing are in their initial phase of infrastructure rollout through 2008 and 2009. All of these environments are demanding faster scientific computers (in the petaflops) and much faster commercial servers (blades servers and standard rackmounts).

Faster processing infrastructures, regardless of their application intent, require faster overall peripheral infrastructures, including:

  • IP networks (10-Gigabit Ethernet and faster)
  • Fibre Channel storage area networks (SANs) at 4 Gbit/s (and soon to go faster)
  • Infiniband connectivity (connectivity distance and speed are both on the rise as this interface becomes more and more a standard for storage connectivity in high-performance environments.)
  • Power infrastructure changes that cater for potentially higher power consumption from blade servers; yet some server and storage vendors are producing more power-efficient storage.

Some vendors are carving out a new approach to storage peripheral supply with creative systems that provide clear performance advantage for the user. These vendors include DataDirect Networks, EMC -- with yet to be announced high-performance systems -- along with Compellent systems and Avid storage products.

In addition, HP announced the XP9100 but will not deliver customer-ready products until the fourth quarter of 2008. Let us not forget that they stated in their announcement that applications will run on the storage platform. (How is this possible? Well, the storage controllers are blade servers.) Therefore, the blades should be able to run applications. In my opinion, some blades will be used for applications and some for storage control. I believe it is doubtful that all blades will be dual-purpose storage controllers and servers, as the I/O handling could be overwhelming for a single blade server.

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