The 21st Century Data Center: High Availability and Data Storage

by Mark Welke, Senior Director Product Marketing



An underground data center. Image Creative Commons copyright Antony Antony


End users like never before are demanding high-performance IT infrastructures that are always available. They expect to be able to access data, applications and networks from a variety of mobile devices, at any time and from virtually any location.


This is the case whether the users are employees, customers or business partners, so it’s easy to see that any company that fails to deliver on high availability IT is potentially hindering productivity, alienating customers, missing out on business opportunities and jeopardizing their ability to be competitive.


Critical business applications—and platforms such as Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and SharePoint; Oracle; SAP; Web storefronts and sites; virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI); and other industry-specific applications—are requiring extremely high availability as they’re deployed within a virtual infrastructure.


Ecommerce systems that generate huge revenues, for example, must be available to customers worldwide and perform at a high level, or companies risk losing online customers and their business to competitors.


With the implementation of what IDC is calling the 3rd Platform of computing—driven by social media, mobile computing and real-time business analytics—infrastructure availability has become an even greater necessity for companies of all sizes and in all types of industries.


Technologies such as virtualization, flash storage and cloud computing are part of a modern IT infrastructure. Thoughtful orchestration of these technologies are required to achieve an “always on” IT infrastructure. An effective enterprise storage environment can enable the continuous availability of application services, and these systems are expected to be operating essentially nonstop from the moment they’re installed.


A key part of the modern data storage strategy—although by no means the only component—is flash storage. Flash is a mainstream technology for enterprise storage today, and research shows that a large percentage of organizations have already implemented flash in their data centers and many others are evaluating the technology.


The best candidates for data center deployment of flash will be those systems that provide consistently high performance and also can meet the demanding availability requirements of the 3rd Platform, the firm says. “As the definition of the future enterprise storage workhorse begins to take shape, it is clear that enterprise storage will heavily leverage flash media and be able to provide the kind of continuous availability that this new era of computing requires,” the paper notes.


Flash is not the only storage technology that will help enterprises maintain a high-availability data center. For example, clustered storage—also referred to as scale-out storage—provides a way for companies to deliver highly available storage systems that are capable of achieving “six 9s” (99.9999% availability).


Clustered storage involves deploying two or more storage servers that work in unison to enhance performance, capacity and reliability, by distributing workloads to each server. These systems include features such as non-disruptive operations, multi-protocol federation and deep application integration, and they offer an alternative to traditional "scale-up" storage systems for the data center.


Storage operating systems play a critical role in the availability of a storage system whether choosing a scale-up or clustered storage system. The maturity of a storage O/S proves its worth by seamlessly integrating with a variety of applications to create a complete infrastructure capable of delivering six nines of availability, mapping to true business needs.


Cloud-based storage services are another means of increasing systems availability. They offer easily scalable and integrated capacity that provides enterprises with the flexibility they require to quickly meet changing demands for capacity.


Cloud services can deliver a cost-effective data storage option for backup and recovery, disaster recovery or archiving purposes. They’re transforming the way organizations think about data centers and storage, in many cases replacing aging and inefficient physical servers for storage.


As many organizations look to capitalize on mobile technology, social media and big data/analytics, they also want to ensure that they provide high availability to users. By deploying the latest storage technologies, they can do this in a cost-effective way.