Multimedia and Personal Devices Driving Need for Denser Storage Solutions

New technologies offer massive performance improvements - but at what cost?

By: Tim Poor, Equus Computer Systems


Storage capacity demands for all types of organizations continue to increase dramatically every year - many are now reporting a doubling of data in less than a year. No one in the industry is taking any bets on that number remaining constant. Fueled largely by the enormous increase in multimedia and personal devices, data centers are looking at higher density drives as one avenue to accommodate growing storage needs in the face of power, cooling, and space restraints. To make informed choices on a balanced system architecture, administrators need to carefully evaluate a number of factors, including performance, data types, capacity, environments, and relative costs.

Industry trends affecting the need for denser storage solutions

The real catalyst for the exponential growth in data storage has multiple prongs. Everything from home photos and movies, to smart devices. Companies face a real challenge adapting to this massive growth in data and devices.

Shutterbugs who used to selectively snap photos, aware of film and photo processing costs, now shoot numerous photos and video on their digital cameras with little or no thought of the increasing storage needed for this new content. With the increase in availability and acceptance of cloud-based storage, more and more of this data is migrating from personal devices directly to cloud data centers.

This increase in media quality is also forcing storage increases on the corporate world. Companies that historically shared information on their website by posting text files and photos are now
switching to rich multimedia formats such as movies, video clips, and high definition photos.

In addition to end user media growth, the advent of smart devices for home and industry has caused another explosion of data. With the Internet Of Things "IOT" rapidly moving everyday appliances and systems into the digital world with the integration of intelligent sensor technology, millions of new data generating devices are going online every day. Companies are now having to consider how to best handle constant feeds of data coming from these devices, how long they need to keep the data, and what storage systems they will need to house the data.

This all adds up to a need for huge increases in data center storage capacity.

Higher density storage needed in data centers

Storing the growing number and size of files is one of the largest challenges facing data centers today. While the maximum hard drive capacity has increased dramatically from 2-4 terabytes (TB) just three or four years ago to around 10TB today, it has also taken new ideas and designs for the storage systems themselves to manage this explosion in data.

Just making the hard drive capacity larger isn't enough. Increasing the number of hard drives in a single storage system is also needed to keep up with the storage demand. Over the past few years, 4U storage systems have scaled from 16-20 3.5" hard drive bays up to 60 and beyond, increasing the density of drives per rack. Equus Computer Systems recently developed a 60-drive server with a total storage capacity of more than ½ a petabyte in a 4U form factor. This equates to more than 5 petabytes per 42U rack, enabling data centers to store more data in their valuable data center floor space.

This ever-increasing volume of data is forcing data centers to rethink how and where they store data. Facing a variety of constraints, including power, cooling, cost and sheer lack of physical space, data centers are turning to both higher capacity drives and more dense storage systems to increase their storage capacity, reducing operational expenses and accommodating the data center's footprint limitations.

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