A data center is a facility or space that organizations use to store their critical applications and data. The design of a data center is based on computing and storage resources connected together that collectively enable the delivery of shared applications and data. Data center storage refers to all the various devices, software, and processes that are found within a data center. These devices, software and processes design, manage and monitor data storage from within the data center. However, apart from the devices and software, data center storage also involves the policies and procedures that are used to oversee the process of data storage and retrieval. This can include things like data storage security, data collection, and data availability.
Types of Data Center Storage
There are a variety of data center storage solutions available from solid-state drives, cloud storage, software-defined storage, and so on. However, the main data center storage solutions used by most data centers are often the following three types; direct-attached storage, network-attached storage, and storage area network.
Direct Attached Storage (DAS)
Direct attached storage (DAS) typically refers to a storage configuration where hard disk drives (HDDs) or solid-state drives (SSDs) are attached directly to a computer or host server. This is done instead of connecting via a network such as Ethernet or Fibre channel. DAS can connect to a computer internally or externally, but in either case, the DAS device is still controlled by only the host computer. While a computer's DAS can be shared so that other systems will be able to access the drive across the network, the computer connected to the drive will still be the one in control. Other systems will also be unable to connect to the drive directly, and therefore, must communicate with the host computer to access the stored data.
Better Performance: Typically, DAS provides better performance than networked storage solutions such as NAS and SAN. This is because when using DAS, the host server doesn’t need to deal with any potential network bottlenecks (sluggish network speed or network congestion). While other systems that connect to the host server might have network issues, the host itself and all of its applications will have unencumbered access to data hosted on DAS.
Cheaper: DAS is also cheaper and easier to implement and maintain than networked systems. A DAS device can easily be implemented through a simple plug-and-play operation, meaning very little administrative overhead. DAS storage also uses a minimal number of components. Thus, other than the price of the SSD or HDD itself, the prices tend to be a lot lower than the networked alternatives.
Limited Scalability: Since a server can support only a limited number of expansion slots or external ports, it can be hard to grow a DAS data center. There are also issues with performance if there are any limitations in the server’s compute resources.
No Advanced Management Features: DAS also lacks the type of advanced management and backup features that are provided by other systems.
Limited Sharing: Since data on DAS cannot be accessed through the internet, data sharing is a big problem.
Who is DAS useful for?
Despite the disadvantages of DAS, there are a number of advantages that make it suitable for certain businesses. For instance, high-performing applications or virtualized environments can greatly benefit from DAS as it is generally the option with the highest performance. Small to medium-sized businesses or even departments within larger organizations can also use DAS as it is relatively simpler to implement and manage and costs much less. DAS can also be used in environments with large, data-intensive workloads that can be scaled out across a network of distributed computers.
Network Attached Storage (NAS)
Network Attached Storage is a file-level data center storage device. This storage device supports multiple users and applications to access data from a centralized disk capacity via a TCP/IP network. A NAS acts as an independent node on the local area network that comes with its own IP address. It is essentially a server that contains multiple HDDs or SSDs, along with a processor and memory resources. This device typically will run a lightweight operating system that can manage data storage and file sharing. However, in some cases, it can run an entire OS system such as Windows Server or Linux. Thus, with NAS, users have a single access point that is scalable, relatively easy to set up, and cheaper than other options like SAN. NAS also includes built-in fault tolerance, management capabilities as well as security protections. It can also support features such as replication and data deduplication.
Advantages of NAS
Efficient File Sharing - NAS allows users and applications running on the same network to easily access and edit files on the same hard drives, without the limitations that they might encounter if they were retrieving data from a DAS. This improves the efficiency of work.
Easy Operation - NAS can provide reliable file-level data consolidation since file locking is something that is handled by the device itself. It also provides built-in redundancy which means that there are many routes for you to access the same files.
Scalability and Integration - NAS devices can be scaled out or integrated with cloud services if necessary.
Disadvantages of NAS
Poor performance: A NAS device has to compete with other traffic on the network. This means that contention can be an issue, especially if network bandwidth is limited. Too many users on the same network can also affect storage performance, not only on the network but in the NAS device itself. Moreover, since many NAS devices use HDDs rather than more efficient SSDs, there is an increased risk of poor performance as more users try to access the storage.
Lack of scalability: The scalability of NAS is limited by the size of the device in use. Since NAS devices usually have unique network identifiers, the expansion of storage space is limited. It is functional in terms of providing file storage space rather than meeting any requirements of big database applications.
Who is NAS useful for?
Because of these network and concurrency issues, NAS is best suited for small to medium-sized businesses or small departments within larger organizations. When deciding whether to implement a NAS device, you should consider the number of users, types of applications, available network bandwidth, and any other factors specific to your environment. DAS might be more optimal for your business because it can be more performant, cheaper, and easier to set up than NAS. On the other hand, you might consider looking for a SAN for increased scalability and additional management features.
Storage Area Network (SAN)
A Storage Area Network is a dedicated and high-speed network that is capable of interconnecting one or more storage systems. These devices function independently of the TCP/IP network, which means it is not subject to network bottlenecks. It connects servers to their logical disk units and provides block-level network access to data center storage. SAN storage can be made up of either HDDs or SSDs or a combination of both. The management software consolidates the different storage devices into a unified resource pool, which enables each server to access the devices as though they were directly connected to that server. Each server also interfaces with the main LAN so client systems and applications can access the storage.
Advantages of SAN
High scalability: SAN can accommodate more than 1000 devices, which means it is very convenient for companies to increase their devices according to their needs. Besides this, it includes centralized management and disaster recovery, which improves storage resource utilization.
High security: SAN includes a lot of security measures to ensure data center security. For example, there are access restrictions on data, which can help avoid data theft to a certain extent.
Disadvantages of SAN
High cost: The components of SAN storage are quite expensive. The prices only compound if you are looking to get more high-performance hardware. There are also significant costs associated with managing and maintaining a SAN, as well as high training expenses for IT staff.
Complex and difficult installation: SAN is complex in nature and requires specialized skills and knowledge in order to maintain and deploy the SAN storage area network.
Performance is dependent on the hardware used: It is commonly believed that SANs are high-performing systems, but they are actually quite slow. They are more optimized for data management rather than performance. Instead, its performance is dependent on the technology used. Using SSDs instead of HDDs can greatly improve performance, as can using a fiber channel. However, since fiber channels are quite pricey, many companies opt for cheaper and lower-performance alternatives.
Who is SAN useful for?
For many organizations, typically larger ones, the costs, and complexities of a SAN system are well worth the investment, especially when dealing with numerous or massive datasets and applications that support a large number of users. Thus, while NAS is much cheaper and easier to deploy and maintain, it is not nearly as scalable or fast.
Choosing the Right Data Center Storage Solutions
Choosing suitable data center storage solutions is a big concern for many companies. However, considering all the advantages and disadvantages mentioned in this article, the choice should be a little easier. Just remember to think about how suitable these types will be for your data center depending on scalability, performance, IT staff, and usage case. In any case, Datacom Enterprise is a data center storage provider that can help you choose the perfect data center storage solutions for your business. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Datacom Enterprise is one of the leading IT solution providers in Singapore. With a wide portfolio of products and services, we are more than capable of handling any and all of your IT requirements. From providing all the necessary hardware and expertise for your data center to taking care of any installation and set-up, Datacom Enterprise has got you covered!