Don't start reading the last rites for monolithic storage just yet

But other tech can simply do the job better, sorry

Monolithic storage arrays may well claim that rumours of their death have been exaggerated, but that doesn't mean that they aren't entering the digital care-home for the soon-to-be-departed.

These boxes — the mainframes of storage — are magnificent beasts, like do-everything battleships of the storage wars in an era in which they have become outdated, with other various other ships taking over their roles.

A monolithic storage array, like EMC's VMAX, HDS' VSP and IBM's DS8000, has massive capacity from ranks of SSDS and disk drives of various types.

It can support thousands of users because it has multiple controllers connected across a high-speed backplane to storage shelves supporting petabytes of capacity.

The VMAX3 array supports 4PB of usable capacity (c7PB raw) data with up to 5,760 2.5-inch drives.

These things have a whole arsenal of different media types; SSDs for extreme response, fast 2.5-inch disks for quick, multi-spindle response, mid-speed 3.5-inch drives for bulk on-line capacity, and slower 3.5-inchers for nearline data.

Monolithic arrays don't just store one kind of data, and that, as capacity needs in the different data types grows, is leading to their downfall (and their rapidly aging software designs of course).

This is despite their legendary reliability and unsurpassed overall set of features.

Think of the monoliths as providing storage for many kinds of data rather than being used exclusively for one type, such as database data. Over the two or more decades that monolithic arrays have evolved their capabilities have evolved as well.

They are high-performance and very safe repositories for several types of data:

  • Fast, medium and slow access-rate structured block and file data
  • Semi-structured data such as mail and word-processing files, spreadsheets and presentations
  • Large to-be-streamed files such as videos
  • Unstructured data
  • Medium and low-access rate nearline data

The truth is that replacement storage technology for each of the main data types stored in the monoliths is better than what the monoliths can provide. Yes, elephants can run, but they can't dance very well, can't really sprint, can't turn somersaults elegantly, can't ... you get the idea.

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