The Storage Foundations Training Program from the Data Management Institute was created to address a perceived need. During our presentations and seminars, we noted that the "storage IQ" level of too many attendees was sorely lacking. Part of the reason was the de-emphasis on storage that accompanied both cloud and server virtualization technology waves. Though storage is fundamental to any strategy for processing organizational data, novice IT operators are often clueless about storage.
The Storage Foundations Training Program is intended to address this deficit with a series of modular training programs designed to acquaint novice IT operators, or even non-technical business administrators, with the many dimensions of data storage. This education is foundational to realizing the goals of data management and of business automation generally.
The Storage Foundations Training Program will be modular in nature, so trainees can pick and choose which topics are relevant to their environments.
Module 1 - A Brief History of Storage
The segments of this module cover introductory concepts in storage and provide a basic understanding of storage concepts upon which to build additional skills and knowledge.
Segment 1 - Milestones in Storage Technology
From the original Von Neumann Machine to today's software-defined storage platforms, a number of storage innovations have provided a springboard for the evolution of information technology generally. Everything old is new again, as the lyric goes, could well describe storage technology today. In this module, we will examine the tension between shared and silo'ed storage from the perspective of capacity allocation efficiency and capacity utilization efficiency.
Segment 2 - Media Options
This segment surveys the media currently available for storing digital information. Trainees will learn about the technology roadmaps for DRAM, flash RAM, hard disk, optical and tape media and the benefits and drawbacks of each technology. Also discussed is the use of mixed media configurations to provide buffering and caching services that improve performance.
Segment 3 - Storage Systems
This segment surveys the storage marketplace to identify different hardware configurations and their purposes. Originally, the industry segregated offerings by performance, capacity and cost, but these lines have been blurred as vendors have sought to design combinations of primary, secondary and tertiary storage to meet specific workloads.
Segment 4 - File Systems and Object Models
This segment examines the technologies that are used to store and index data on storage devices. Trainees will learn about various types of file systems and the challenges associated with using them to manage large and complex inventories of data files. The case for object storage will also be examined to determine what improvements it offers over file system-based storage and what new challenges it presents.
Segment 5 - Storage in an Era of Virtualization
Beginning with a discussion of storage virtualization and its potential for overcoming many of the challenges of shared, networked storage, this segment will examine the evolution of storage in the context of server virtualization. Special attention will be devoted to an examination of the erroneous claims about "legacy" storage that were part of the initial server virtualization "movement" and how hypervisor vendors distorted the explanation for the poor performance of their virtual machines by blaming storage. Also introduced is the notion of software-defined storage, which was thought to be an improvement in storage architecture, despite the silo'ing of storage created by the SDS strategies of proprietary server hypervisor vendors.
Segment 6 - SDS, HCI, Cloud Storage and Beyond
Rounding out this module, we will examine software-defined storage, hyper-converged infrastructure and cloud storage to assess their contributions to storage infrastructure efficiency, and the challenges they have created to same. We will explain why SDS is not new and why silo'ed storage is not a panacea for bending the storage cost curve or using storage capacity more wisely.
Module 2 - Tape: The Forgotten Storage Technology that Everyone Suddenly Remembers
Segment 1 - Tape's Renaissance
This segment discusses the re-emergence of tape as a high capacity/low cost storage medium. Several use cases will be explored and the business value case for tape will be articulated. If you think tape is dead, guess again. Experts asset that up to 80 percent of the world's data resides on tape, whether in the corporate data center, in offsite storage companies or in the cloud.
Segment 2 - Tape Metrics
This segment surveys experts in the field to identify the key metrics for sizing a tape storage platform that will meet current and future requirements. Also discussed is the role of tape in tiering data, enabling more expensive storage media to be freed up for new data by migrating older, less frequently accessed data to tape. Tape archiving and tape-based backup will be examined in detail.
Segment 3 - Tape File Systems
The Linear Tape File System (LTFS) is fast becoming a fixture in tape environments. This segment examines the history of LTFS, current implementations and future plans for the technology, developed by IBM but now an open standard.
Segment 4 - Tape Operations
What is really involved in operating a tape platform. Some say that it is a simple black box requiring very little operator intervention. This segment looks at a number of tape libraries and autoloaders to identify common operational and maintenance tasks you should know.
Segment 5 - Tape and Clouds
Clouds were once seen as a tape killer, usurping the traditional role of tape technology in backup and archive. History has proven that view to be incorrect. Tape's most aggressive users are now cloud service providers, who prize the technology for its low cost, jitter free playback, and protective air gap. Here's the story.
Module 3 - Random Access Storage
Segment 1 - Random or Sequential
Random access storage facilitated the speed at which data could be located and returned to the CPU and memory for use in workload processing. Sequential storage, aka tape, provides slower access but arguably better streaming performance, making it excellent for most archival storage applications. If you have heard these terms bandied about but were clueless about what was actually happening, this segment helps you sort it out.
Segment 2 - Storage Arrays for Blocks and Files
Storage arrays have gotten a bad rap of late as evangelists of "software-defined storage" and error correction coding have cast aspersions on the idea of value-add controllers operating fixed media arrays. Here is the truth of the matter, plus a discussion of the differences between "block storage" and "file storage" -- terms that are frequently used without explanation in the media.
Segment 3 - Virtual Volumes and Virtual SANs
Virtual is an "in" expression at present. But the idea of carving a virtual volume out of an assortment of physical storage media is as old as the hills. Here is a brief discussion of LUNs, volumes and other terminology you have been hearing about so you can better critique the value case offered to you by vendors who seek to sell you their wares. To make matters worse, the marketing departments of many vendors seem to have taken virtual to the next level, calling their storage platforms "virtual SANs." We will look into what this means and whether you should care.
Segment 4 - Software-Defined Storage and the Segregation of Services and Controllers
The last segment introduced the concept of virtual SAN. This is part of the terminology one is likely to hear in a brochure, report or article about software-defined storage. In this segment, we will look at software-defined storage (SDS) and hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and set the value case straight for both.
Segment 5 - Promising Architectures for the Future
Currently, software-defined storage holds sway as the "hot button" in storage industry speak. However, smart planners are already worrying about the impact of mostly silo'ed SDS and HCI storage on enterprise-wide capacity allocation and capacity utilization efficiency. Going forward, storage media and platforms will evolve. This segment covers some promising development efforts.
Module 4 - Storage Management
Segment 1 - The Challenge of Heterogeneous Storage and Enterprise Storage Resource Management
While most of the attention paid to storage is focused on media or arrays or interconnecting technologies, the fact of the matter is that the storage business value case depends on management. Only 1/5th or 1/6th of storage infrastructure costs are associated with acquisition cost. The preponderance of storage cost of ownership is related to management and facility expense. A barrier to containing costs in storage is the failure of the industry to adopt universally a standards-based management approach that will herd all of the cats of heterogeneous storage (storage from different and competing vendors). Here is a short history of the effort and the challenges we still face.
Segment 2 - The Promise of Storage Virtualization and RESTful APIs for Storage Management
For those who are serious about managing storage resources better, the one-two punch that might just work is the combination of storage virtualization and RESTful API-based management. Storage virtualization homogenizes all storage infrastructure, simplifying the management of volume constructs. RESTful APIs, as implemented on some storage kit (but not all!) provides a standards-based approach to interacting with storage devices to gather real time information about their status. Very successful demonstrations have been made of both techniques, but neither will take hold in a general way without consumers demanding them from vendors.
Segment 3 - Key Metrics - What Should We Be Managing?
Storage management is a great marketing term, since it means whatever the user wants it to mean. Here are the key metrics that should be used to evaluate the efficiency of your storage infrastructure.
Segment 4 - Challenges for Storage Going Forward
Storage remains the largest hardware spend in most organizations today. Even in the case of hybrid clouds, many firms have been reluctant to outsource the management and administration and hosting of irreplaceable data assets. When they do use cloud services, it is usually to host backup or archival data. Needed are better tools for managing data across the expanse of multiple hosting locations -- that is, providing a data management solution built on a cognitive computing engine to ensure that the right data is placed on the right storage at the right time and is afforded the right protection, privacy and preservation services per a business-savvy data management policy. There are some very promising efforts afoot to deliver just such a solution.
Under Continuous Development
The Storage Foundations Training Program is not currently a certification training program. Instead, it is conceived as a primer on foundational storage topics intended to support the knowledge requirements of contemporary IT workers. Watch this space for links to the individual modules as they are completed and posted over the next few months.