Demystifying Disaggregation Storage

We are witnessing the 2nd wave of NVMe adoption where SSDs move from a captive resource inside a server to a pool of shared media delivered across a network. Sound familiar?

I watched this story play out in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the advent of Storage Area Networks (SANs). This shift in storage architecture came about because HDDs were stranded inside servers, creating islands of storage that had poor utilization, limited scalability, and painful management challenges.

The SAN changed everything. New billion-dollar companies emerged, and petabytes replaced terabytes as the lexicon of choice. Even new classes of IT workers were defined – the SAN Administrator, the Storage Administrator, and so on.

IDC predicts that nearly $19 billion of Enterprise PCIe will be sold in 2022, a segment growing at 40% CAGR1. Given NVMe is the standard protocol for PCIe SSDs, one could conclude that NVMe will be the dominant performance storage technology for several years to come.

Today, NVMe is primarily delivered as DAS. While “SAN” is the word to describe network storage now, NVMe-over Fabrics is the next generation transport protocol for networking of NVMe SSDs. “Disaggregation” has become the term to describe this networking.

I can tell you that PR people are not fond of disaggregation as a name for the future of networked storage. However, it is the term being adopted by virtually every major vendor in the performance storage category. Like the name or not, disaggregation is as real as SAN was in 1997.

So, what is disaggregated storage? For those of us old enough to remember the early days of SAN, disaggregation is just another name for a concept we hold true. However, a new generation of databases and, database and data center architects are coming of age. Disaggregated storage architecture in the data center is the modern way to take the lexicon from petabytes to exabytes, while achieving optimal utilization, scalability, and management. To help explain the concept in the context of the 2nd wave of NVMe adoption, our friends at 451 Research have penned the seminal tome entitled, “Disaggregation – A long word for a simple and key concept.” If you are ready to catch the 2nd wave of NVMe adoption, this paper on data center disaggregation is what you have been waiting for. Give it a read here.