SMB Requirements of an All-in-One Storage Solution to Meet Their Immediate and Long Term Big Data Needs

It seems there is no shortage of storage appliances on the market today from which small and midsize businesses (SMBs) may choose to meet their varied data storage needs. However, SMBs looking for an all-in-one storage appliance that can address both their current storage demands and position them to meet the unpredictable requirements of Big Data may wonder what such a solution even looks like or if it even exists. Today I quantify what features such an all-in-one storage appliance should ideally possess and where to look to find such a solution.

When it comes to buying storage, SMBs constantly grapple with how best to do so. The last thing they want to do is buy a solution that only meets today’s storage requirements of today. However the future of Big Data makes predicting the future so unpredictable that they many settle for what the storage market has to offer and then pray they do not need to make a painful course correction in a few years.

Further complicating the situation, they want to also keep their environment as simple to manage as possible and spend as little money as possible to do so. In short, they want an all-in-one storage appliance that allows them to have their proverbial cake and eat it too.

The best place to look to determine the feature requirements of an all-in-one storage appliance is at enterprise storage environments. Enterprises normally separately acquire and then assemble the hardware and software that they need to meet their existing and anticipated storage requirements.

So by SMBs understanding what these features are, it goes a long way towards quantifying what features they need an all-in-one storage appliance to provide. These features include:

  • High performance storage. These storage systems support online storage (minimally in the form of SATA disk drives) which is primarily designed to support an enterprise’s production applications that require higher levels of availability and performance. However these higher levels of availability and performance typically translate into higher prices for this tier of storage.
  • Archival storage systems. These storage systems start small and then easily and economically scale into the hundreds of terabytes. Archival systems prominently feature ease of management, ease of scalability and cost-effective storage capacity – both in terms of up-front capital costs and ongoing operational costs – and may consist of either online or nearline storage.

  • Plug and play networked storage. Networked storage systems that do file sharing are as ubiquitous in enterprises as they are in SMBs As such, any storage system needs to seamlessly plug into an existing network infrastructure with either a 1 Gb or 10 Gb Ethernet connection, support the CIFS/SMB and/or NFS file sharing protocols and appear as a shared folder to network users. Further, integration with Active Directory (AD) is often a prerequisite to ensure secure user access to the data stored on these systems.
  • Offline storage. Offline storage in the form of removable media (disk or tape) still plays a large role in enterprise organizations. Offline media provides significant savings over online storage solutions by reducing an organization’s ongoing power and cooling costs.
  • Offsite storage. Storing data in the cloud is on the radar screen of most enterprise organizations and already in production in some. This gives them a practical method to store immense amounts of data offsite easily and economically.
  • Data management software. Having all of these types of storage systems and tiers of storage capacity is great. But enterprises still need software to automate the movement and placement of data on these different tiers of storage based on pre-existing or defined policies.

In this role it must support the creation of policies that establish the business value of the different types of data as well as classifies the underlying tiers of storage on which data is placed.  The software will rely on these policies to classify data and then place it accordingly on the appropriate tier of storage.

As part of this, it will also need the inherent ability to distinguish between the different tiers of storage capacity under its management. In this way, it can determine on what storage tier to place data, how long to keep it there and when and under what conditions it should be moved and when it should be moved onto a specific storage tier.

Finally, this software also needs to protect the data by ensuring multiple copies (at least two) exist and that it is secure from unauthorized access or deletion. Further, it needs to natively include archiving features so as production data ages, it can be archived off of online storage to more cost effective storage nearline, offline and offsite storage tiers. This process of actively archiving data also serves to minimize the amount of data backed up as well as reduce the length of backup windows.

This list of requirements presents a lengthy and formidable challenge for any purpose-built storage appliance to satisfy if it is to meet all of an SMB’s current and future storage needs. However benchmarking existing storage appliances against this list of requirements reveals that the Imation InfiniVault provides such functionality.

The Imation InfiniVault is, to the best of DCIG’s knowledge, the only storage appliance that offers this comprehensive mix of enterprise hardware and software features. But maybe what is equally as important to SMBs is that the Infinivault’s features may be managed by their existing IT staff, it includes all of the licenses that they need to get started and it should fit within their current budget.

SMBs have no shortage of storage appliances on the market from which to choose. But those who look critically at what these storage appliances have to offer and how well they align with their immediate and long term storage needs will find the Imation InfiniVault on their short list of products.

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