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External storage systems for the enterprise are adapting quickly to new needs and business requirements, with data now accessed from both on-premises and cloud applications. We are in a transition phase from storage systems designed to be deployed in data centers to hybrid and multi-cloud solutions, with similar functionalities provided on physical or virtual appliances as well as through managed services.
The concept of primary storage, data, and workloads radically changed over the past few years. Mission- and business-critical functions in enterprise organizations were concentrated on a few monolithic applications based on traditional relational databases. In this scenario, block storage was often synonymous with primary storage, and performance, availability, and resiliency were prioritized, usually at the expense of flexibility, ease of use, and cost. Now, after the virtualization wave and the exponential growth of microservices and container-based applications, the focus has shifted to flexibility, integration with the cloud, and dynamic resource allocation.
When it comes to modern storage, and block storage in particular, flash memory and high-speed Ethernet networks have commoditized performance and reduced costs, allowing for more liberty in system design. At the same time, enterprise organizations are working to align storage with broader infrastructure strategies, which address issues such as:
- Better infrastructure agility to speed up response to business needs
- Improved data mobility and integration with the cloud
- Support for a larger number of concurrent applications and workloads on a single system
- Simplified infrastructure
- Automation and orchestration to speed up and scale operations
- Drastic reduction of total cost of ownership (TCO) while significantly increasing the capacity per sysadmin under management.
These efforts have contributed to the growth in the number of solutions, as startups and established vendors alike move to address these needs. Traditional high-end and mid-range storage arrays have been joined by software-defined and specialized solutions all aimed at serving similar market segments, but differentiated by the focus they have about the points described above. A one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t exist. In this report we will analyze several aspects and important features of modern storage systems to better understand how they impact the metrics for evaluating block storage systems, especially in relation to the needs of each IT organization.