Rethinking Enterprise Storage in the Cloud Era

By Nigel Cook, Intel Fellow, Chief Cloud Architect, Data Center Group, Innovation Pathfinding & Architecture Group at Intel

In today’s world, a business department can spin up a storage environment in a public cloud in a matter of minutes. To offer business users the same level of agility, enterprise IT teams need private cloud deployment models that enable the rapid self-service delivery of high-performance storage services. In other words, enterprise IT organizations now need to think and perform like cloud service providers.

This shift requires a rethinking of current processes and approaches to storage provisioning and management. In a conventional environment, storage is manually provisioned and matched to the specific needs of the application. When a business department wants to bring a new application online, it might take a month or two for the IT team to provision appropriate storage and carry out all the checks and balances to ensure end-to-end functionality. That doesn’t sound very cloud-like, does it? Lags of weeks or months are unacceptable in the cloud era.


To meet the rising expectations of end users, and to keep pace with an unprecedented influx of data, the IT organization now must find ways to deliver high-performance, scalable storage with the agility and economics of a public cloud. This new approach to the delivery of storage services requires a combination of innovative technologies that drive higher performance and automated management of the entire storage environment—so data is always stored at the right cost and the right level of performance.

To enable this cloud-like approach to storage, enterprises need to identify the right combinations of optimized hardware and software components. These combinations enable storage to be provisioned from a private cloud in a matter of seconds—all via a self-service portal and guided by backend management software that applies policies set by IT administrators.

At Intel, we understand these new requirements for enterprise storage in the cloud era. More specifically, we have a sharp focus on the technologies that will enable high-performance scalable storage for enterprise private clouds in an affordable manner—from next-generation Intel® Xeon® processors to new 3D XPoint technology for non-volatile memory and solid-state storage. Together with our OEM and open-source software partners, we are working actively to create a reference architecture that will bring the vision to life.

In one such collaboration, we are working with HP, Red Hat, and other partners to enable new advanced technologies and open source Ceph storage management software. In this particular project, we are optimizing Ceph to take full advantage of the capabilities of Intel® Solid State Drives (SSDs) and associated Intel technologies, including Intel® Cache Acceleration Software (Intel® CAS). This reference architecture integrates hardware with soon-to-be-available-on-the-market software in a new way to achieve the scalability, affordability, and performance results private clouds seek.  A broader goal is to drive the adoption of Ceph and enable the efforts of the open source community.

This collaboration, which will be in the spotlight at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco August 18-20, proves that with the right combination of SSDs, optimized storage software, and enterprise-class processors, you can create a system that delivers tremendous improvements in storage performance. We’re talking about gains measured in orders-of-magnitude over conventional systems built around hard disk drives (HDDs). Even better, we’re showing that you can achieve this top-tier performance while making sure that data is stored in a cost-effective manner.

If you attended IDF, the week of August 18-20, you may have seen a demo of an Intel-based high-performance, scale-out cloud storage solution with HP Helion OpenStack® and  high-density HP Apollo servers‌ firsthand. For more information about this effort and what we showed at IDF, please click here for the presentation delivered by Nigel Cook, Deric Horn (HP), and Craig Belusar (HP) called High Performance Scale-out Storage for the Enterprise Private Cloud.

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