Are new hard drive options increasing appeal for data tiering?

– (editor's note – this post also comes from Greg White in storage marketing. Thanks again Greg)

Data tiering – classifying and segregating data on different types of disk drives – has been around for awhile, but has been somewhat limited by drive choices. Support for additional drive types on new disk arrays, like the Dell/EMC CX4 series, could make this more relevant for a much broader audience.

Initially, you basically had two choices – Fibre Channel (FC) or SATA. Over the last year or two, SAS drives have become alternatives for FC drives in some storage systems, as SAS drives offer 15K and 10K RPM options at typically lower cost due to higher industry volumes.

Today, new drive options, like Solid State (Flash) and Low Power SATA drives, are increasing the range and spread of potential data tiers. For example, flash drives can offer up to 30 times the performance of traditional 15K FC drives in some applications. Today, these drives come at a premium to FC drives; however, over time as prices decline, more and more users may use these drives for their most performance hungry applications.

Low power SATA is at the other end of the spectrum. These drives can consume almost a third less power than traditional SATA drives, making them ideal for storing data for long term retention where performance is not critical.

This raises a few questions for discussion:

1. Do these new options – and the increasing spread between choices – make data tiering more attractive or simply muddy the waters?

2. What are the implications for managing your data, storage systems, applications, as well as other considerations, like managing your spares for example?

3. How do you classify data and implement tiering on these new drive options?

Today’s storage systems that can support flash, FC, SAS, SATA and low power SATA drives as well as virtual provisioning are the future of storage. While tools that ease the process of tiering are increasing in number and maturing, there are opportunities to leverage these new drive options to start increasing storage efficiency and resource management through tiering efforts.

About the Author: David Graves