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Storage blades can meet storage network capacity needs

Storage blades are available to meet various storage capacity and interconnect needs. Contributor Anne Skamarock outlines several vendors' storage blade options.

Are you considering using server blades, but holding back because your customer needs more local storage capacity without tapping networked storage? Do you also want to take advantage of the blade chassis footprint and shared features, such as redundant power, cooling, monitoring and management? If so storage blades may be a great option.

Like any other blade, storage blades come from a variety of vendors with different capacities, interconnect and targeted markets. Earlier this year, HP announced their HP StorageWorks SB40c storage blade. This blade inserts into the BladeSystem c-Class chassis adjacent to the processor blade; it provides additional direct-attach storage (DAS) capacity via a high-speed PCI Express connection between the two blade slots. The SB40c contains up to six hot-plug small form factor (SFF) SAS (serial attach SCSI) or SATA (serial ATA) drives with an HP Smart Array P400 RAID controller with battery backed-write cache. Today, the c-Class chassis supports a maximum of eight SB40 storage blades per chassis for a total of over 7 terabytes (TB) of DAS. This additional in-chassis storage allows you to avoid moving customers to a network-storage environment. For that reason, it's ideal in data centers where network-storage knowledge is limited, such as branch offices and remote offices (ROBO), or where applications are easier to manage with local storage, such as mail servers or smaller databases.

Verari Systems also offers a processor blade with off-the-shelf components that take blades one step further -- to the storage blade. Verari's VB5150 is a network-attached storage (NAS) subsystem, optimized for high density, containing one head-node (VB1150) and up to four storage blades (VB5155S), which are connected via SAS expanders for as much as 30 TB capacity per subsystem. Each storage blade supports a RAID controller and up to 10 hot-swap SATA drives. The VB5150 utilizes Verari's BladeRack 2 platform (also used with processor blades) with redundant power inputs, power metering and cooling with support for up to 48 storage blades for a total of 360 TB capacity. Verari has integrated the PolyServe File Serving Utility onto the head node with support for NFS, CIFS and FTP. Verari has a long history in the high-performance computing, cluster computing and enterprise computing markets, where high-density shared file access is a key factor.

The embedded systems vendors have taken hold of the storage blade idea as well. Performance Technologies has IP storage blades (IPnexus CPC5900) for those with CompactPCI PICMG 3.0 requirements, supporting 1 TB storage expandable to 2 TB via a storage expansion blade. Both NFS and iSCSI protocols are supported. Motorola has Fibre Channel-based ATCA storage blades (ATCA-S100) with up to 300 gigabytes (GB) capacity per blade. And there are others, such as EtherDrive storage blades or Adtron. These solutions are targeted at companies who want ultimate flexibility in building their own solutions utilizing storage blades, often for custom applications or with specific markets targeted.

Storage blades are being developed to augment many different solutions with interconnect and capacity flexibility to meet the needs of customers. The ability to share chassis space, power, cooling and management with processors provides a plethora of channel business opportunities.

To learn more about what is being done with storage blades or storage with respect to blade servers or storage and server virtualization, attend the Seventh Annual Server Blade Summit on Blades and Virtualization: The Perfect Marriage, May 1-3 in Anaheim, Calif. This year's program is supporting three tracks, IT strategy and business, IT technical implementation and vendor technical, supporting seven storage-specific sessions across the tracks. Be sure to visit the ROI Planning Lab being sponsored by IBM Tivoli and Avnet to see how blade systems and virtualization solutions can positively affect your bottom-line.

About the author: Anne Skamarock has over 20 years of technical, marketing, research, analysis and consulting experience, as an end user/administrator, vendor and industry analyst. Since 1995 she has concentrated on systems, storage, networked storage and storage management . A frequent speaker at conferences, she was also chair of Networld+Interop's Network Storage Track. Anne's expertise covers a broad range including enterprise management software, data protection, storage networking architectures, virtualization technologies and tape and disk storage systems. In addition to having written a regular column on storage for Network World, Anne is also co-author of the book Blade Servers and Virtualization: Transforming Enterprise Computing While Cutting Costs.

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