I’m in the process of editing an interesting, and perhaps controversial, article by Andrew Reichman, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. It’s based on his report, “Do You Really Need a SAN Anymore?” and makes the argument that application-centric storage may prove to be a viable alternative to traditional SAN architectures.
“Application-centric storage” is when application vendors embed storage functionality into their code to handle some, or many, of the functions typically handled by disk array vendors or third-party software vendors. As such, storage is managed from within the application itself.
I sincerely doubt that application-centric storage will challenge SANs, but in some cases it could make a lot of sense. And don’t underestimate the storage plans or capabilities of vendors such as VMware, Microsoft and Oracle.
Here are some examples, which I’m lifting from the article:
Oracle offers branded storage hardware under the Exadata label. Using its Automatic Storage Management (ASM) feature to control the flow of data between application servers, and storage servers provided by technology partner HP, the Exadata system is a hybrid of software and industry standard hardware that Oracle will sell directly.
Microsoft recommends DAS for Exchange 2007. Exchange has long had a best practice for configuration that precluded adding other workloads to the storage array it runs on, which has served to put it on an island. Now, with the addition of Cluster Continuous Replication (CCR), the application can manage its own high availability and replication.
VMware offers native storage management capabilities. The virtualization market leader continues to add storage features to its application stack. For example, VMFS offers volume management capabilities within virtual machine management, and VMware recently announced vStorage, which includes native thin provisioning and other key storage features. While many of the storage features within VMware leverage SAN array capabilities, the control and management is substantially shifted to the application realm.
Leading application vendors probably won’t rock the SAN boat, but it’s quite possible that they’ll provide some worthy competition to the pure-play storage hardware/software vendors.