“Storage tiering is dying.” But purple unicorns exist.

19 02 2010

Chris Mellor over at the Register put an interview online with NetApp CEO Tom Georgens.

To quote from the Register piece:

He is dismissive of multi-level tiering, saying: “The simple fact of the matter is, tiering is a way to manage migration of data between Fibre Channel-based systems and serial ATA based systems.”

He goes further: “Frankly I think the entire concept of tiering is dying.”

Now, for those who are not familiar with the concept of tiering, it’s basically moving data between faster and slower media in the background. Clasically tiering is something that every organization is already doing. You consider the value of the information, and based on that you decide if this data should be accessible instantly from your more expensive hardware, and even at home you will see that as the value decreases you will archive that data to a media that has a different type of performance like your USB archiving disk or for example by burning it to a DVD.

For companies the more interesting part in tiering comes with automation. To put it simply, you want your data to be available on a fast drive when you need it, and it can remain on slower drives if you don’t require it at that moment. Several vendors each have their own specific implementation of how they tier their storage, but you find this kind of technology coming from almost any vendor.

Aparrantly, NetApp has a different definition of tiering, since according to their CTO tiering is limited to the “migration of data between Fibre Channel-based systems and serial ATA based systems”. And this is where I heartily disagree with him. I purposely picked the example of home users who are also using different tiers, and it’s no different for all storage vendors.

The major difference? They remove the layer of fibre channel drives in between of the flash and SATA drives. They still tier their data to the medium that is most fitting. They will try to do that automatically (and hopefully succeed in doing so), but just don’t call it tiering anymore.

As with all vendors, NetApp is also trying to remove the fibre channel drive layer, and I am convinced that this will be possible as soon as the prices of flash drives can be compared to those of regular fibre channel drives, and the automated tiering is automated to a point that any actions performed are transparent to the connected system.

But, if NetApp doesn’t want to call it tiering, that’s fine by me but I hope they don’t honestly expect customers to fall for it. The rest of the world will continue to call it tiering, and they will try to sell you a purple unicorn that moves data around disk types as if by magic.


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2 responses

19 02 2010
pwnmasta

Tom Georgens is the CEO… just understands technology more than other tech company CEOs.

19 02 2010
Bas Raayman

Woops, fixed that. Thanks for the hint. 🙂

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