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As a managed service provider in the small and mid-sized business market, we are impressed by IBM’s SANs (Storage Area Networks). Wait, that sentence does not convey point.

We have been repeatedly impressed by IBM SANs. Over the last few years, many of the enterprise-class features offered to large businesses have been repackaged for the SMB market, and the advantages of these features are truly exciting for us, and our clients.

That is why, for the next few weeks, we will be writing about the multitude of advantages an IBM SAN has, and why they support a better price point than the competition in practice, if not on paper.

Each of these advantages comes from the advanced, enterprise-class controller that comes standard in IBM SANs. The controller makes decisions about where to access and how to allocate your data. The IBM controller makes huge gains in a number of important, price-cutting areas. The first of these is called Easy Tier.

What is Easy Tier?

Easy tier is a sophisticated, automatic process that comes standard with any IBM SAN. The process continuously analyzes your data usage and allocates storage accordingly. Frequently used data is sent to the quickest storage space (typically SSD). Data that goes unused for long periods of time is sent to the slower storage bins. Again, you do not need to lay a finger on the system for any of this to occur. The SAN optimizes your storage automatically.

How does Easy Tier save money?

When data is allocated using easy tier, you can “afford” to buy less expensive hard disks, such as a 15k or 10k drive. These are much, much slower than an SSD, but they are also much less expensive.

(For a speed comparison, see the chart on 8088’s IOps comparison page. The short story is: SSD beats all other drives, hands down.)

Despite the impressive speed of SSD, no CFO would OK the purchase of a SAN made entirely of SSDs. The price is too high – roughly 200% of the next-fastest category.

Easy tier allows you to buy a smaller SSD, knowing that the quicker retrievals will occur as needed, and the slower space will be used for the vast majority of data, which goes unused most of the time. Again, the allocation is automatic. For all practical purposes, you do not even know that easy tier is being used. The solution is seamless, smart, and extremely effective.

For more information, watch IBM’s video on Easy Tier. Next week, we will go into thin provisioning.

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