by May 1, 2009 0 comments

Storage of data is a mission critical task and shall always remain that
way. There will always remain a need to find better solutions to store the ever
growing volumes of data. Looking at the future of storage technologies that the
industry is going to embrace, we discuss how file virtualization can play an
important role in making enterprise data management easier with almost nil
downtimes. Also, we crystal gaze to show how Nanotechnology shall drive storage
management in future. We also focus on future storage media being developed on
concepts like 3D holographic storage, carbon nanotubes and heat assisted
magnetic recording, revealing how, in a few years, terabytes of data would be
stored on a disk as small as a conventional DVD!

Nanotechnologies Driving Data Storage of Future
To put it in simple words, Nanotechnology deals with engineering of
functional systems at the molecular scale. Generally, this deals with structures
of the size 100 nanometers or smaller, and involves developing materials or
devices within that size range. If mathematical conversions have not been your
forte, a nanometer is a billionth part of a meter. More like a comparison of a
marble with our planet.

Today, scientists are working day and night in order to develop systems that
would shape the future of the data storage industry. These could help us do away
with internal disk drives all together as well as the computer boot-up process,
bringing up applications instantaneously when a PC or laptop is turned on. Other
hardware may allow data to be stored for more than 100 years without having to
change or refresh media. Moreover, such technologies bring along the potential
for devices as small as flash drives to hold as much data in 10 years as the
world’s largest data centers held only 10 years ago.

RAM of the future
Carbon nanotubes lie at the heart of this concept. These are molecule-size
objects composed entirely of carbon in a cylindrical structure which gives them
unique properties. Some of these properties are steel like strength and
conduction of electricity both as a metal and a semiconductor.

The core
technology that goes behind Nanotube-based/non-volatile RAM.
3D holographic
storage solutions can make terrabytes of data fit into a standard CD/DVD
sized disk.

An interesting way in which carbon nanotubes are being used is in the
development of a high density, nonvolatile random access memory chip that could
replace dynamic RAM, flash memory and even hard drives. Nantero, a
nanotechnology company has built, using nanotubes a chip called NRAM (for
nanotube-based/nonvolatile RAM) that is faster than DRAM, as portable as flash
memory, and able to provide permanent storage because the wafer uses nonvolatile
storage as its basis. The technology has the potential to enable instant-on
computers that boot and reboot without delays and eliminate the need for
internal disk drives on computers.

Holographic Optical drives
3D optical data storage is an innovation which has the potential to provide
TBs of data on a DVD sized disk. This is a form of optical data storage in which
information is stored or read on the medium in a 3D resolution as compared to
the 2D manner on the conventional CD/DVDs.

The left portion
shows the conventional multigrain media, while the right portion shows the
pattern media and the uniform arrangement of magnetic islands.

Colossal Storage is developing a rewritable 3-D volume holographic removable
disk media. The nanotechnology under development at Colossal is a possible
replacement for today’s magnetic disk drives and memory chips. Unlike magnetic
media, which only stores data on the surface of the disk drive, holographic
optical disk drives use two or more laser beams that work with one another to
read and write data throughout the disk media. Advantages include 100+TB
capacities, near zero read and write response times and 100-plus year lifespan.

Unlike AFM (Atomic force microscope)-based storage nanotechnologies, which
require two dissimilar materials to come into contact with each other and create
friction and shorten a disk media’s lifespan, holographic storage has noncontact
surfaces, so it has a higher degree of reliability. Therefore users will have to
invest in a disk media once and won’t be forced into continually reinvest in new
storage technologies.

Bit Patterned Media
The hard drive manufactures are vying for maximum areal density and storage
capacities for their drives. Bit areal density is considered to a benchmark to
measure progress in magnetic information recording technology. With Seagate
being able to achieve 375 GB of storage density into a single platter to become
the first to break the 1TB hard drive barrier with their Barracuda 7200.11 1.5
TB hard drive. But to scale the conventional magnetic recording technology to
increase the areal densities pose a challenge in form of superparamagnetic
effect. To counter this, researchers are working on Bit Patterned Media concept
which will help achive a terabit per square inch densities and beyond. The hard
drives today use the conventional magnetic recording technology, in which the
magnetic recording layer is a thin film of magnetic alloy. This magnetic alloy
film forms a random mosaic of nanometer scale grains that behave as independent
magnetic elements. Where each recorded bit is made up of several of these random
grains. However with bit patterned media, the magnetic layer is created as an
ordered array of highly uniform islands of grains for each individual bit of
recorded information. Research is being done to realize the disk fabrication for
such uniformly placed nanometer sized magnetic grains and also the overall
recording medium to read and write the data onto the drives.

Seagate is working on HAMR (heat-assisted magnetic recording) technology
that could extend magnetic recording areal density of hard drives by about a
factor of 10 beyond what can be accomplished with perpendicular recording, and
has the potential of extending the hard drive technology another six to seven
years beyond its five-year limit.

Use of laser and a magnetic head together to read and write data on a new and
more stable disk medium such as iron-platinum is what lies at the heart of HAMR.
The laser heats the disk medium while the magnetic head writes to it, allowing
the disk to store more data. After the media cools, the disk and data becomes
very stable. Research is being carried on a large number of media that can be
written by HAMR and iron-platinum materials and can theoretically support 50
terabits per square inch.

We believe the phrase ‘data increases in leaps and bounds’ has outlived
itself. It’s a given as far as corporates are concerned. Let me cite an example.
Did you know that the good old telephone took a massive 89 years to reach 150
million users, whereas the TV took 38 years. Any guesses on how much time did
Facebook take to reach the same mark? The answer is just five and that’s not the
end of the debate. Facebook says it added five million users each week in
January 2009 and around 850 million photos were uploaded in February this year,
and the social networking site is used for 3 billion minutes everyday. So that’s
my idea for analyzing the increase in data-get the idea?

Challenges in storage mgmt
Thanks to the ever burgeoning expansion in applications, digital media
formats, and regulatory compliance, taming today’s exploding storage
requirements with the existing storage management methods has become an
unsurmountable task. Don’t believe me? Well, according to IDC, storage
administrator productivity must increase by 60 percent every year to keep up
with the growth in storage capacity in an organization. And again that’s not
all. Giving administrators nightmares are 24x 7 data access requirements which
brings down the number of windows available to perform management tasks to a
close to nil figure.

In order to achieve dramatic improvements while simplifying capacity,
performance and structured storage management, what’s required is a holistic
approach. To start with, while alleviating data integrity problems, disaster
recovery issues and performance bottlenecks, any potential solution should not
bring any associated risk to the storage environment. Another legitimate concern
that IT managers have is how should end user access be managed as a solution
that needs special software installations and fine tuning at each server or
client easily outweighs the advantages of uninterrupted access during data
movement. Some of the key challenges when it comes to storage management are:

1. Challenges related to capacity
As mismanagement of storage capacities still prevails in most organizations,
average utilization is not up to the mark. Adding to the problems is the ‘per TB
management cost’ approach. And over- provisioning, which might seem like an easy
way out, can be an extremely expensive affair.

2. Challenges related to performance
Performance related challenges pose a threat to the efficiency of the people
working within an organization. For example, when the administrator performs
management tasks, the user productivity takes a beating due to poor response
times. Also, application throughputs are limited due to I/O bandwidths.

Managing a
heterogeneous storage environment comprising of Linux and Windows file
servers can be seamlessly done without much downtime.

3. Storage consolidation challenges
With the potential to harm and have a negative impact on the productivity of
the workforce, consolidation projects might face internal roadblocks due to
organizational impact. Data relocations along with security and access settings
also come as a byproduct when executing consolidation projects.

EMC Rainfinity
By enabling unstructured data management without disturbing end user or
application access, EMC Rainfinity is the first solution to optimize IP based
storage with its patented Global File Virtualization (GFV) platform. The
solution optimizes Network Attached Storage (NAS), eases storage management
overhead, simplifies end user access and enables additional storage management
functionality. One major advantage of Rainfinity Global File Virtualization is
its capability to transparently move data including active, open files.

Where is it required?
Storage networks are getting more and more complex. The traditional Network
Attached Storage solutions have found siblings in larger enterprises. A NAS,
which was mainly used for file and print services over the network has now been
supplemented CAS and CFS. CAS or content addressable storage is mainly focused
on compliance issues and for securing data, whereas CFS or clustered file
systems are used to spread a large amount of data across devices usually in an
HPC (high performance computing) environment. Each of these storage systems have
their own storage management capabilities but you need a solution that can work
in the heterogeneous environment provided by them as well as manage them
together. It is environments like these where global File Virtualization can be
used. For example, a bank where data availability is mission critical and data
consolidation, archiving and other management steps need to be executed with as
less downtime as possible.

How does it work?
We all know, data migrations can be costly and time consuming as they
require long planning windows and coordination with end users. However, Global
File Virtualization (GFV) leverages the power of an IP network. The Rainfinity
appliance is deployed on the IP network itself. Let’s take an example of a data
center environment where you have ten file servers. Now if you want to migrate
data from server one to server 4 in order to balance capacity, end users might
face performance issues like greater response times. However, with the
Rainfinity appliance installed on the same network, it would take the ports
associated with these servers on the virtualization network till the time the
migration gets completed, hence giving the end user a lag free experience. Now
scale this example up to a very large enterprise where you might have billions
of files stored in different file servers and where authorizations and policy
management also play a major role. Rainfinity enables transparent data migration
without any disruption to the end user. In fact, files being used by the end
user can also be migrated as it allows the transfer of open files. Through the
global namespace management, the entire remapping and remounting can occur
seamlessly due to a single interface for devices, protocols and locations.

Data migration and consolidation projects can take advantage of this
solution as it eliminates the need to coordinate with end users and schedule
downtimes. Such solutions can also dramatically reduce performance issues that
are usually caused by overburdened file systems while balancing storage
utilization. On the lines of capacity management, administrators can adjust the
available resources or take actions as and when needed in order to achieve a
greater value for money from the data storage investments. And finally the
solution can be used in a heterogeneous environment as it is capable of
supporting network storage solutions from different sources, including EMC
Celerra, NetApp, and Windows/UNIX/Linux file servers.

GFV & storage mgmt apps
To simplify storage management, increase flexibility and lower costs in the
data storage environment EMC Rainfinity combines Global File Virtualization with
purpose built applications. As a result, it makes optimization of networked
storage with applications that identify, analyze and rectify capacity,
performance and tiered storage issues, provisioning for active data management.
A few areas where such data management applications are used can be capacity
management, file management, global namespace management, tiered storage
management, performance management, storage consolidation and synchronous

Varun Jaitly with inputs from Rahul Sah

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