June 29th, 2020            Click here to download the PDF file

The Arrival of the Server SAN Era

The Evolution of Storage Networking

The evolution of storage networking can be traced back to the 1980s. At that time, due to the innovations triggered by the introduction of Ethernet technology, the Network File System (NFS) was created to achieve file sharing on local area network environment. With NFS, files are shared by means of a file server accessing internal storage directly attached to the server (DAS). While the topology provides file sharing and the internal storage offers reasonably high performance, the direct-attached storage is not easily expandable.

With the development of storage networks in the 1990s, file servers were connected to external disk arrays via FC or Ethernet networks, called Storage Area Network or SAN. SANs were developed to address the limitations of a single server, which made it difficult to expand storage system capacity and share storage use with other servers. SANs made the entire storage pool accessible in parallel, breaking the bottlenecks of both storage capacity and performance associated with DAS (direct-attached storage).

As the Internet grew and became a fixture across the world, cloud computing and big data were developed to tame the explosion of both information and management of it. Here, traditional file system and storage area network architectures could no longer meet the exponential demand for services and accesses. Storage controllers proved incapable of more complex management tasks. In place of file systems, SAN and their respective infrastructure, Object-based cloud storage came into being to solve the problem of massively expanding new storage applications, in which application servers share their own direct-attached storage (DAS), namely "Server DAS", so that DAS provides Object Storage function, and can be composed by the servers to form a very large-scale integration, which solves the high scalability requirements of the Internet big data server/storage.

Object-based cloud storage is not a universal panacea, as it is not suitable for traditional IT applications that require low latency and high predictability, such as database and video play and composition. Through the success of Server DAS in big data applications, the derived Server SAN inherits the convenience and flexibility of the server to the storage application, and yet magically retains the architecture and functions of the traditional SAN, so the advantages of cloud storage–flexibility and good price/performance ratio–were brought upon traditional applications, while also reducing complexity and cost of ownership, and finally made its way into the enterprise data centers.

Thus far, the evolution of storage is like progression from a privately owned vehicle (DAS) to a shared urban bus system (SAN) to a high-speed railway that serves a large number of customers (an ultra-large-scale storage pool enabled by Server DAS); then transform the high-speed railway architecture and technology into an electric light rail system (server storage enabled by Server SAN), one which meets an urban transit system’s requirements for low wait-time (low latency) and highly on-time (high predictability), to replace the bus system (SAN).

The Era of Server SAN

The traditional storage network (SAN) architecture remains the backbone of the current big data center. In this architecture, almost all storage arrays are equipped with vendor-specific storage controllers and use their proprietary software to manage the connected storage devices; while servers are usually connected to storage controllers through switches and rely on the storage controller to provide most storage management applications.

Server SAN is a storage network (SAN) composed of feature-rich storage servers instead of single-purpose storage controllers. Using the cloud-based storage network technology to combine storage network and dedicated storage server with computing functions, most of the storage service and management software run on the server rather than relying on the storage controller, which breaks through the functional limits of traditional storage networks. Server SAN enhances the traditional storage network architecture that has been widely used in today's data centers, reduces the complexity of traditional storage networks, and brings the flexibility, scalability and cost advantages of cloud storage into the traditional storage network.

The main reason for the rapid acceptance of server storage (Server SAN) is that it inherits the revolutionary low cost and high expansion potential of cloud storage. Compared with traditional storage array networks, server storage can greatly reduce installation and maintenance costs. At the same time, server storage has storage software running on the system server, which can manage directly connected storage or JBOD/JBOF. Server storage can also be viewed as storage with computing functions, which makes it more adaptable to the mainstream applications of today's multi-cloud architecture In the future, this same technology lends itself to enterprise-level intelligent storage that carries emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and 5G/6G.

According to Wikibon, a well-known market research firm, enterprise server storage will significantly replace enterprise-level traditional storage devices (SAN, NAS+DAS) at a rate of 20 percent annual growth. The projected global market will reach US $25 billion a year by 2025.

VersaPLX Solution

In the past, server storage market was almost monopolized by the converged solutions based on the standard x86 servers with software-defined storage software. VersaPLX launched by Loxoll is a storage server device using ARM64 architecture. It can support any server-storage protocol host system and storage system combination to provide transparent data services. Multiple VersaPLX nodes are clustered into a server storage network through 10GE connection, achieving high availability and performance expansion in the form of horizontally scalable storage. Readers who are interested can learn more about VersaPLX products by visiting the links below:

Loxoll Website : http://www.loxoll.com/web/versaPLX.html


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