NetApp Caching Trumps Traditional Tier Thinking

If you were delivering IT services and you had complete freedom to do what you wanted, how would you architect a solution to best support your customer and business requirements?

You could build multiple infrastructures for each customer or user. Each built with different architectures and management. Each designed to satisfy the needs of an individual client or workload. We typically call this practice of putting different workloads on different architectures “tiering.” Of course, as those needs change over time, and data becomes more or less critical, you would need to move the workloads and data from one tier to another. That often requires migration, new training, and process changes.

Or, you could build an intelligent infrastructure that can meet the needs of diverse clients and workloads, with automated management tools and processes. This infrastructure would allow you to offer multiple classes of service based on customer requirements, much like yesterday’s dedicated tiers. However, it would be flexible, so you could easily alter it over time to meet changes in business requirements and workloads. Data could be stored and managed without a trade-off in performance, cost, flexibility, or efficiency. Better yet, you don’t need to build yet another new infrastructure or forklift the data from one to another.

We think the answer is pretty clear.

Yesterday’s traditionally tiered infrastructures simply cannot affordably deliver the speed of response and diverse service levels required by business. To meet the demands of business today, IT must create a shared IT infrastructure that allows for rapid, affordable provisioning of services. This infrastructure flexes to meet diverse client and workload needs, enabling classes of service. Equally important is making sure you can dynamically manage data across storage resources, based on business need, with minimal human intervention. It is a far more flexible and efficient way to run things. It takes an intelligent, automated approach.

Flexible and efficient IT services are better enabled by intelligent caching , which combines high performance and efficient cost technologies to enable people to better manage data with improved price/performance.

Minimize Costly Tiering
Intelligent caching lets you create a large pool of shared storage divided into virtual classes of service rather than create many hard-to-manage tiers. The cache inside the large pool of storage is dynamic, so the most important data remains in cache automatically. You can set your cache as big or as small as you want.

With the traditional physical tiering approach, once you’ve designated an infrastructure as a certain tier, it is expensive to change. Tiers are more difficult to manage because you not only need to assign data to each tier, but you also need to continually copy and delete data as you move among tiers. You need to provision new storage as tiers grow and shrink, a job that is particularly challenging in an environment with different platforms at each tier. Worst of all, the tiered strategy ties workloads to particular services. If tier three doesn’t have disaster recovery services, but business requirements chang, IT has a project on its hands! In a tierless environment, meeting changing requirements doesn’t require copy and delete operations, it delivers Flexible IT . A simple policy change, and the challenge is met!.

With intelligent caching, you use flash memory intelligently to optimize performance as needed. For example, if you couple it with SATA to manage capacity requirements, you can use far fewer high-performance disk drives . Together, SATA and Flash Cache can significantly reduce costs, thereby, helping you save a boatload of money without affecting performance for many workloads. More importantly, you manage different classes of service virtually, which dramatically increases your flexibility.

Best of all, by taking an intelligent caching approach, your data center staff no longer needs to waste cycles managing tiers. We’ve simplified that. Intelligent caching automatically puts a copy of hot data where access will be fast and erases it when the data becomes cold. The persistent copy can stay in low cost storage. You can make the cache even smarter. Our FlexShare software lets you set up classes of service. For example, you can give a high priority to your OLTP database and a low priority to SharePoint files. Your OLTP data will be kept in the cache. When push comes to shove and SharePoint files will get kicked out.

Flash + SATA: Same Speed, Lower Cost, Greater Business Acceleration

Tier Less Cache More with Flash Cache & SATA

Flash Cache plus cost-effective, high-capacity SATA drives changes the economics of storage and data management. Now, you have very dynamic data management at an extremely low cost. Perhaps most important, you have the flexibility to automatically adjust IT resources as needed to support business priorities and keep pace with business demands.

Most of you know that historically, the labor cost of managing storage has been bigger than the cost of acquiring the storage. Now, work with me here.

Click to enlarge


A single large pool of storage is easier to manage than multiple smaller pools
(1PB is more efficient to operate than three smaller pools of 200TB, 300TB, and 500TB.)


The cost of managing storage is equal to or greater than the cost of buying storage
(If you pay $100 for your storage, it will cost you at least $100 to manage that storage over its useful life.)
“We need solutions that can keep up with the pace and scale of exploration and give us a competitive advantage, because increasing our time to discovery is vital to the company’s continued success. Ultimately, we need to help users spend more time developing prospects and reservoir models and spend less time loading data and managing data between applications.”
- Bradley Lauritsen,
Apache Corporation

Why does it make sense to break your storage into smaller tiered pools of storage? It seems silly. If you can fulfill all of your customers’ business application and workload needs with a single infrastructure, why would you want to build and manage multiple tiers?

Many companies have already taken advantage of the powerful combination of Flash Cache and SATA to drive business advantage. Apache Corporation , an independent energy company, easily accommodated 700% data growth with no additional administrative storage costs, and its data is delivered in seconds rather than minutes because of NetApp® Flash Cache.

The End of Tierany
Look. There are definitely some workloads that require the raw performance that SSDs can provide. We can help . We simply do not believe in tiering all of your data. End the tierany.

Don’t waste precious IT resources moving lots of data, or start with your data on SSDs, then move them to lower cost architectures. The same objective of delivering classes of service and lowering costs can be met much more effectively with the data residing on one tier of disk drives combined with intelligent caching and software that sets service priorities.

Take advantage of intelligent caching to consolidate or even eliminate physical tiers, while still delivering varied service levels and diverse workloads with unprecedented efficiency, ease of management, and cost savings from a single shared storage infrastructure. With it, you can satisfy a broad range of business needs in real time and maximize efficiency and lower cost.

If you want to keep pace with business … if you want to drive competitive advantage … if you want your IT resources to be more responsive to strategic business projects, you need to intelligently manage your IT environment to maximize flexibility and efficiency.

It’s time to free your resources—including your staff—from data management minutiae. We can help.

If you’re ready to transform your IT organization into a shared IT infrastructure for maximum flexibility and efficiency, contact your local NetApp representative or one of our many qualified partners .

Please also check out our video on demand, “ Make the Leap to a Shared IT Infrastructure ” and join the conversation about shared IT infrastructure and Flexible IT in our communities .