Several weeks ago we where contacted by LSI asking us if we wanted to participate in the launch of a new product range. Having recently taken a look a their MegaRAID 9271-8i controller kit, with a nice accompaniment of additional extras. I agreed sit down with them and see what they where bringing to the table. Oblivious till nearly the a hour or two before the meeting. I was pleasantly surprised see just what they had for us.
In the simplest form Syncro is combination of products. Products you would expect to find in any server room. Or in some cases the your geek friend who runs a cluster of servers in his home for testing reasons. However its not the just the mix of the traditional DAS and storage components that make Syncro something special.
Syncro is a mix of several specialized software sets. Combined with controllers that have been running in the field outside of the testing for nearly a year now. LSI and Microsoft also collaborated to make it easier to setup. By allowing Microsoft Server 2012’s storage manager to provide full management and configuration. Without needing to use LSI’s MegaRAID storage manager (not that there is anything wrong with it). This includes direct integration into Microsoft’s Cluster Failover Manager.
Direct Attached Storage – Pro’s and Con’s
For those of you unfamiliar with Direct attached storage in its current incarnations. Beyond that of just plugging in a drive to your laptop or something similar.
Direct attached storage in most large environments is often a compromise between cost and storage needs. It can be extremely inexpensive in some situations to implement. Its generally fairly simple to implement as well. In its most simple form it can be nothing more than an external case with a large drive in it shared so the rest of the network can see and use it. It can also become extremely complex quite quickly. The more you grow the more the limitations show up.
High availability is usually the number one problem associated with direct attached storage. Normal Direct attached storage is limited to a single server. In some situations its even limited to a single controller. So what happens if that controller fails, or the attached server dies. Well your storage becomes unavailable during this time period.
One of the ways to get around this is to mirror your data across the network to another server. With another direct attached storage array. Now what you start doing is what LSI and Microsoft pleasantly referred to during our meeting as “Islands of servers”. This tends to further complicate management, it can also have the unwanted effect of increased cost.
There are solutions to this outside of Direct attached storage which is why its become somewhat unwanted and unloved option for many businesses these days. Many businesses are choosing to go with Storage appliances providing Network Attached Storage (NAS), and large Storage Area Networks (SAN’s). There is a huge price difference between these options though. There is also much more setup involved in the more top of the range offerings.
NAS and SAN’s
NAS boxes and SAN’s options are certainly abundant in the marketplace. There are a wide range of companies out there offering complete solutions. There is even opensource driven appliances out there adding the diversity.
If we look at a top of the line SAN offering the biggest difference between the two in technology is high availability. In what the base of the hardware is built around a lot of the same servers you might already have running in your datacenter. However between a mix of software and some hardware they provide High Availability, in the form of redundant management modules and controllers.
Now there are places where the added extras are needed in association with a SAN where it is a better solution. However for for the Small and medium sized business a large portion of these features often go unused. Sometimes its due to a lack of need. Other times it purely due to the complexity and lack of time and training to make use of them.
This spurs the question of why pay for something I am not gonna use. It also often brings along with it the question, of can we do it our self for cheaper. Which is why many small and medium sized business implement in house solutions to these problems.