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Storage Vendors Get Into The Grid Game
Grid computing is catching on, as more companies learn how to treat a bunch of servers as a single pool of computing resources that can be allocated and reallocated as needed. Storage vendors are moving into grid, too. And, while some customers are skeptical, vendors say the shared-file system that underpins most storage grids can lower costs and improve file handling.
Storage technology has made great strides in the past two years, thanks to network-attached storage and storage area networks, which make it easier to view and use all the storage resources in an IT infrastructure. But storage networks are limited because each device has its own file system, requiring extra steps to find and share files. Storage grids, which use a single file system for all storage devices, are designed to overcome that limitation.
"The shared file system allows storage systems to gang together," says Michael Thompson, systems developer at Industrial Light & Magic, the special-effects company behind the Star Wars films. Next month, it will move from high-end Silicon Graphics Inc. servers and EMC Corp. Clariion storage to low-cost commodity server and storage grids. The company is deploying more than 1,000 two-way servers that use Advanced Micro Devices Inc. chips and a grid of Network Appliance Inc. storage devices.
It's the file-handling capabilities that appeal to Industrial Light & Magic. "We must get on board with new technology for serving our files," Thompson says. The company made the move to avoid the cost, complexity, and management challenges of a multivendor Fibre Channel SAN. "With Network Appliance, we'll achieve the same performance for one-tenth the price," Thompson says, though he declined to be more specific.
"Storage grids change the way storage is managed," says Jamie Gruener, an analyst at IT research firm Yankee Group. A storage grid will let administrators see and use all the storage resources connected to a network, regardless of which vendor it comes from. It also will let them easily add capacity. "Customers used to buy a tool for such capabilities," Gruener says. "More and more, they're shipping with the product."
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