Despite new health IT options, hybrid storage is still the best fit for many

Auto-tiering hybrid storage software can factor in the cost of the storage, the distance to the server using the data across multiple data centers on premises or in the cloud and the speed requirements at specific times.

Jeff Rowe | Jan 30, 2018 12:00 am

Whenever a new technology comes along, there tend to be advocates who argue that the best thing an effected stakeholder can do is incorporate that new technology to the maximum degree possible.

But reality has a habit of injecting a more balanced perspective, with the result that many, if not most, stakeholders find their way to a hybrid of “old” and “new” that works best for them.

Take flash storage, for example.  While there is certainly an argument to be made for health IT managers to consider incorporating all-flash arrays into their plans, chances are many will end up in a hybrid situation.  As tech writer Logan G. Harbaugh recently pointed out, “Hybrid storage arrays combine the high performance of SSDs with the high capacity and low cost of HDDs. Although these hybrid storage systems include the same types of features as the high-end all-flash arrays, they also offer automated tiering to optimize use of the flash part of the array. “

As he explains the latest developments, unlike older technologies, the latest hybrid storage systems essentially virtualize storage. “The administrator does not need to create specific volumes for different performance levels. Instead, the storage system simply identifies the most-used files and places them on the fastest available tier of storage. When those files are accessed less frequently, the system moves them to less-expensive tiers.”

The emergence of flash, he says, brings more tier options to enterprise storage arrays. “Potential tiers include memory bus flash; nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) flash; high-performance SATA flash; low-cost SATA flash; 15,000, 10,000, 7,200 and 5,400 rpm HDDs; tape, RDX removable disks; and even the cloud. The speed of the fastest SSD tiers enables other storage features, such as inline compression and deduplication, which can increase the effective capacity of an array by as much as five or six times in real time.”

One of the main reasons for buying hybrid storage, Harbaugh notes, is its lower overall cost over all-flash arrays. Of course, some hybrid storage systems are harder to use than others, and the proliferation of tiers can affect management of the storage. But he points out that using a storage product that can handle external tiers can save substantial time and effort, especially over the life of the data. 

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