Sidebar: Vendors Take Different Paths to Grid Storage

While there are significant differences between various grid storage systems, they all perform one task: aggregating CPU processing power, storage capacity and the ability to grow seamlessly.

Vendors are lumping the terms virtualization, clustering and grid together into one technology marketing pile and calling it grid storage.

And while "any of those terms work" to describe grid computing, said Randy Kerns, an analyst at Evaluator Group, true grid storage must address RAID controller and capacity integration issues.

Close to a dozen smaller vendors, such as LeftHand Networks and 3PARdata, take somewhat different paths to reach the same goal. "The big difference between 3PAR and LeftHand is that [3PAR] has storage controllers clustered together and a pool of storage those controllers can access. LeftHand has nodes that contain the storage," Kerns said.

Larger storage vendors, such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Network Appliance, are all knitting together more distributed storage-area network (SAN) environments through open standards, common interfaces and virtualization technology that can link uncommon systems.

Network Appliance's grid storage architecture uses disks, filer heads or engines, switches and its Data Ontap operating system to enable serving mixed SAN and NAS workloads.

"[Start-up vendors' grid systems] are microcosm implementations of what is truly the macrocosm challenge most enterprises face," said Tom Hawk, general manager of enterprise storage systems at IBM. "They're nice, simplistic point solutions, but they have to be integrated into an enterprise infrastructure."

Hawk said most IBM customers are tackling grid storage and grid computing from an architectural standpoint in order to better utilize existing systems as IBM looks at information grids in a larger context -- the context of the WAN.

Over the next year, HP will focus on giving its "smart cells" -- all-in-one modules with controllers, storage and software -the ability to serve up block-level data from databases, integrated heterogeneous array controllers and grid-based storage management.


Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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