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SGI's offering, DMF, is a policy-based automated tiering package, and is used to virtualize storage tiers in large active archive environments.
CommVault's Simpana 9 data protection software allows dynamic tiering across all backup and archiving storage tiers, but not for primary storage except to capture recovery copies from hardware snapshots in conjunction with customers' primary storage arrays. Data movement across tiers can be automatically scheduled based on user-defined policy.
Quantum's StorNext storage virtualization software includes Storage Manager, a policy-based data mover that automatically and transparently copies or moves data to another tier of storage.
EMC, the first major storage vendor to make SSD an option for a mainstream storage array, offers Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) across its Symmetrix, VNX, Clariion, and Celerra arrays. FAST supports both block and file/object data types.
Isilon, which last year was acquired by EMC, also offers automated tiering for scale-out NAS via its SmartPools software application.
IBM offers its System Storage Easy Tier automated tiering software with its DS8000, Storwize V7000, and SAN Volume Controller (SVC) storage lines to improve performance. The company also offers automated tiering on its Scale-Out NAS (SONAS) system, where the focus is on reducing cost as part of an information lifecycle management (ILM) approach.
Avere Systems' Tiered File System (TFS) dynamically tiers data by intelligently and automatically moving it between tiers based on demand. It stores active data on the RAM, SSD, and HDD media internal to the company's FXT storage appliances.
Cutting Edge Networked Storage is planning to shortly release a new product, Power Saving Cloud Archive (PSCA), which includes a scale-out NAS for primary storage on SSD, high-performance disk, and large capacity disk, with the ability to move old data to disk which can then be turned off to save power.
About half the vendors offer automated tiered storage as a separately licensed product, while about half offer it with a storage array or storage software at no additional charge.
Solution providers are mixed in terms of the value of automated tiered storage.
Customers are clearly implementing the technology, and will increasingly continue to do so as they understand the benefits and ease-of-use, said Dave Cerniglia, president of Consiliant Technologies, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider.
For enterprises, Consiliant sells all the functionality of a storage system including automated tiered storage because of the need for reliability, availability, and serviceability among such customers, Cerniglia said.
"We don't look at it as a line item, but as part of a solution," he said.
In the midrange, however, automated tiered storage still requires long conversations with customers, Cerniglia said. "We still have to explain how it works," he said.
Rolf Strasheim, director of client solutions at Peak UpTime, a Tulsa, Okla.-based solution provider, said that for most customers, the continuing fall in the price of hard disk or SSD storage cancels many of the benefits of automated tiered storage.
Peak UpTime has automated tiered storage offerings through its vendor partners such as NetApp, but for most customers, increasing storage performance is as simple as adding Flash cache memory or an SSD, Strasheim said.
"As the cost of SSDs and high-performance hard drives continue to fall, it's hard to see the value of dynamic tiering," he said. "Customers get 90 percent of the benefit of an SSD just by adding Flash cache, but at a much lower cost.."
Unlike automated tiered storage, which requires customers to configure and tweak parameters, Flash cache is much less complex, Strasheim said. "I like the simple solution," he said. "If it's a choice between Flash cache and auto tiering, I'll choose Flash cache. There's not a lot of care and feeding to do. There's no complex operations, move a little bit of data here, or a little bit of data there."