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Storage meets the Grid

I'm just back from OGF19, which was very productive in a number of ways. One strand of interest is the continuing dialogue between the storage industry (represented by SNIA) and the grid world. This conversation has been developing slowly over the last year. I was on a panel at MSST 2006 that explored some aspects of this. SNIA were also present at GGF18 to explore where the two concerns meet. Both sides are still learning about each other, as they are both complex and changing technologies.

One obvious area of overlap is that of data replication. Many grid projects maintain replicas of data, to improve access times and/or to guard against loss. The classic example is the LHC Grid, but there are many other examples, particularly in the world of data librarines. Meanwhile, the storage industry supply replication systems for commerical data, specialising in backups and disaster recovery.

The two technologies work at different levels. Storage systems copy data from one disk block to another, with no knowledge about the data being copied. Grid systems copy files or database tables (in fact these two are themselves very different technologies), while maintaining application-specific metadata. Storage systems are usually deployed over LANs while grids are deployed over WANs, but this is not a hard and fast rule.

It remains to be seen which approach is best in which circumstances. Certainly there seem to be standards and tools from the storage industry that might be useful in the grid world, and vice versa. This will be an interesting conversation for some time.

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