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Storage Tiering: Everything You Want To Know

With its research indicating that tiering ranks in the top 10 planned storage investments for 2011, the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) has published its market landscape report, Storage Tiering: The Case for, Types of, and Purchasing Considerations. The report analyzes the various options, implementations, impacts, and market segmentation for tiering solutions, and is among the first such analyses done, said Mark Peters, senior analyst and author of the report.

Storage tiering, the act of placing different data on various types of storage media and systems, is a hierarchy dependent on many factors, stated Peters. However, the key, he said, is the value a user places on particular data, and, in the end, all storage comes down to economics.

Tiering is not an end in itself; it is a means to itself, he said. "There is no point doing tiering without knowing what you intend to achieve."

Factors affecting where data is stored include the importance of the data in terms of performance, retention, or business value; the differing levels of service needed from users, customers, applications, or business units; and the availability of capacity and management resources and funding available.

The report includes analysis of 23 vendors, although that is only a subset of the total market, noted Peters. The report breaks down the market structure into five main segments: array-based migration, array-based caching, file system-based, software tools, and archive emphasis.

At the end of the day, all tiering is all about economics, said Peters. "If storage was free, you wouldn't have tiering." But storage isn't free--it can be very expensive, especially at the high end, so you need to make decisions. "At the end of the day, it's about money."

This leads to two conclusions, he added. First, tiering is not just something you do at the high end, but can be looked at all the way down the stack. Second, users should think of data in terms of two hierarchies--I/O and long-term persistence. "It's not just about what goes on solid state, but something you do all through the hierarchy because it's about money."

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