In a recent white paper, Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) pointed out that the roots of today’s conventional storage systems – scale-up or frame-based storage where you continue to add disks behind a storage controller as your capacity needs grow – can be traced back to 1960s. Even though traditional storage vendors have “tweaked” these systems for the last several decades to meet the changing workload demands, the issues of degrading system performance as you increase capacity are well known. Proliferation of server virtualization in the enterprise IT only exacerbates the situation.

On the other hand, scale-out storage offers a modular approach where you add complete storage units, as needed, that work in tandem. With this approach, you can scale your capacity AND performance linearly, as you add a complete module – not just disks – that become part of the networked storage “system.” These scale-out storage systems are more flexible to meet the agility of today’s increasingly virtualized computing environments.

Even though scale-out storage systems are designed in this century, they are not new constructs. In fact, Dell’s EqualLogic product line – the industry leading scale-out storage solution – has been in the market for several years now, and we have sold over 75,000 units of those. So, what’s new in ESG’s research? Couple of highlights:

  • Adoption is growing fast: 58% of respondents either already have or plan to deploy scale-out storage by end of 2012.
  • Use of scale-out storage correlates to enterprises that have a more strategic view of storage: 64% of those who view storage as “strategic” use/plan to use scale-out storage vs. only 31% of those who view storage as “an afterthought.”
  • Implementation time: The figure below is telling!!!

The full implementation time for a new storage system (from ’need’ to ‘use’) is under 3 months for 38% of scale-out storage users, compared to only 13% of those not using scale-out. Only 21% of users of scale out storage report overall implementation times of over 6 months, compared to 61% of those not using scale-out storage.

The fact that 61% of traditional storage users have implementation times exceeding 6 months underscores how IT projects – such as server virtualization – can be slowed dramatically by inflexible storage.

ESG evaluated Dell’s EqualLogic platform in the context of scale-out storage, and found that “Dell EqualLogic PS & FS Series is probably the most effective approach to solving the increasing performance demands created by the generic growth of applications and IT demands, as well as the specific needs of the server virtualization revolution….and to do this while at the same time controlling storage costs.”

ESG’s conclusion: “[EqualLogic] can not only match or exceed all the capabilities required in mid-range and smaller enterprises, whether SAN or – now – NAS, but also do it with enormous flexibility, while being easy to deploy and use, and with an attractive TCO.

Check out the white paper here.