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A recent survey of IT leaders and practitioners conducted by Enterprise Strategy Group shows that 70% of the responders are either actively implementing a unified storage architecture or have plans to do so in the immediate future, while 23% have already done so. Clearly, the trend is to unify and consolidate the storage layer.


Why is unified storage important?

Unified storage systems are quickly becoming the standard for delivering storage solutions. As noted in a recent article in Storage magazine“[A unified storage architecture] has proven to increase operational efficiency by providing a single shared pool of storage that can be used on an as-needed basis, eliminating the need to deploy, power, cool, and manage separate block- and file-based arrays.” This simple reduction in deployment systems can eventually reduce not only operational costs (easier to operationalize, common management interface, less complexity, automated provisioning...) but also capital expenditure, in the form of deferred equipment purchases.


Fig 1. Block and File protocols: one shared and truly unified storage infrastructure.


NetApp has been a leader in providing unified storage infrastructure since October 2002, when support for SAN protocols was added to our portfolio of solutions. NetApp has over 150,000 unified deployments to date; and almost two-thirds of systems go out the door with unified protocol support (FC, iSCSI, FCoE, NFS, and CIFS). 

As a side note, NetApp Data OnTap is the number one storage operating system in terms of revenue and install base (most of our R&D dollars go to innovating and improving Data OnTap –a single storage platform, as opposed to squandering R&D assets on multiple and disparate point solutions, like some other vendors do).


Technical considerations for unified storage

If you are part of the 70% of IT practitioners actively working on a plan to migrate to a unified storage platform, there are some key considerations to keep in mind. The following is a list of questions to ask your vendor or technology supplier. Make sure that there is feature and functional parity in both NAS and SAN protocols, especially in the following key areas:

• What are the storage efficiencies capabilities supported?  
• How is data protection and recovery implemented?
• What is the monitoring and management framework?
• Does the proposed unified architecture support application integration with Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, VMware, and Citrix?
• What is the IT operations overhead?
• What hypervisors are supported?
• Do you have a plan to protect my current investment? Can you virtualize third-party hardware?


The world of IT is very complex, data is growing exponentially and the demands imposed on IT departments are certainly very demanding.  The good news is that your storage infrastructure does not have to be complex. Having the right storage technology is your key to solid, unified storage that is the foundation for a scale-out solution -now that's interesting!