A primer on implementing efficient multi-tiered architectures

By Jon Collins and Tony Lock

Executive summary

Few organisations today would deny their absolute dependency on both their computer systems and on the
information they store. Rapid data growth continues for many businesses, and despite the current economic
climate storage demands do not seem to be letting up. Trends such as increased user-created content
coupled with mounting pressures from regulatory compliance are causing us to store more information over
longer periods of time.

Against this backdrop, storage technologies continue to evolve and diversify to keep pace with data volumes.
When it comes to managing live data, for example, developments in areas such as denser, faster and more
power-efficient disks, along with the emergence of solid-state disks, are providing more options from a
hardware perspective. Added to this we have more flexible management and software capability to allow
storage virtualisation and the minimisation of data quantities through deduplication. Meanwhile, much is
being made of disk-based backup, but tape is still recognised to hold a valid place in today’s IT
environments.

But this is not just about technology of course, and it is particularly not about believing the hype around any
one particular solution. There are no magic bullets in storage and the reality is that a blend of technologies
will be required in most business environments based on the so-called ‘tiered storage’ approach. With this in
mind, it is important to ensure that a storage strategy is in place that reflects the requirements of the
business. From there, balanced decisions can be made considering the value, cost and risk of any particular
solution in a given context.

In order to help with this, the remainder of this paper considers the merits of the different technologies
available on the market today, and how they might fit into a tiered storage architecture.

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