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Storage Management
Storage Management

The Definitive Guide to Building Highly Scalable Enterprise File Serving Solutions

by Chris Wolf

SYNOPSIS

Not only have the challenges that face file serving evolved over the past few years but the methods used to meet those challenges have advanced as well. Today, many organizations view data availability as critical, allowing for very small windows of system downtime. Compounding the problems of maintaining data availability is the sheer volume of data that many organizations must manage.

Written for IT professionals tasked with data center administration and network storage architecture/management duties, The Definitive Guide to Building Highly Scalable Enterprise File Serving Solutions offers expert instruction on maintaining data availability and scaling out existing infrastructure to meet increasing data storage demands.


CHAPTER PREVIEWS

Chapter 1: Moving Beyond Current File Serving Philosophies

The challenges that face file serving have evolved over the past few years, and the methods used to meet those challenges have advanced as well. Today, many organizations view data availability as critical, allowing for very small windows of system downtime. Compounding the problems of maintaining data availability is the sheer volume of data that many organizations must manage. The industry has moved from needing gigabytes of storage a few years ago to eclipsing the terabyte or even petabyte range of managed storage.

This chapter will begin an exploration of how to build highly scalable enterprise file serving solutions by looking at the current state of the world of file serving. Along the way, you will see the many disk, server, performance, and availability choices at your disposal. After exploring the countless available options, the chapter will examine how Information Technology (IT) as a whole is modernizing its approach to file serving and data management. This chapter will provide the foundation on which to build the rest of the guide.


Chapter 2: Taming Storage Growth—A Modern Perspective

Chapter 1 introduced the vast array of storage and file serving solutions available today. It is important to understand how each file serving and storage technology works, and equally crucial to know which technology is right for your organization’s needs. This chapter provides a detailed examination of the current file serving and storage growth problems facing IT and explores what server, storage, and application vendors are doing to address these problems.


Chapter 3: Data Path Optimization for Enterprise File Serving

With enterprise file serving, much of the attention concerning availability and high performance is focused on the servers themselves. However, the clients that access data on file servers face many other obstacles and potential bottlenecks along the way. For a client’s request to reach a file, it must traverse the network, reach the server, and, ultimately, the server must request the file from its attached storage. This chapter will view the entire landscape of the file serving picture. Although attention will be paid to the servers themselves, you will also see the common problems and pitfalls involved with getting data from storage to a client.


Chapter 4: Building High-Performance, Scalable, and Resilient Windows File Serving Solutions

The last chapter took more of an external look at file serving. In taking on file serving from a data path perspective, you can see which elements of the network must be made highly available  as well as meet performance and scalability demands. This chapter takes a deep look at the role of the OS itself—in particular, how to manage high-performance and highly available Windows-based file servers. As technology has continued to improve, Microsoft and countless vendors have developed new tools and methods for managing file systems. In many cases, the available file serving tools and OS enhancements are complimentary rather than competitive.

As you navigate though this chapter, you will first see what Microsoft has done on its own to improve file serving. You will then see the role that some of the major file serving vendors have provided. Although awareness of Windows file serving technologies is important, it is equally significant that you understand how these technologies can—or cannot—coexist with your existing or planned file serving infrastructure. Let’s begin with a look at WS2K3’s file serving enhancements.


Chapter 5: Building High-Performance, Scalable, and Resilient Linux File-Serving Solutions

The last chapter took a close look at the world of Windows file serving. This chapter will take a similar approach with Linux file serving. Although many of the challenges facing file serving today remain consistent between both Windows and Linux operating systems (OSs), the approach to solving the challenges presented by enterprise file-serving for these OSs certainly differ.

In this chapter, you will see the world of file serving from a Linux perspective. Along the way, you’ll get a close look at the several challenges facing file serving on Linux platforms. We will also examine the current alternatives (both commercial and open source) for solving the performance, scalability, and availability file-serving issues.

Another major aspect of Linux file serving is the ability to integrate Linux file servers onto Windows-based networks. With a Windows Active Directory (AD)-dominated client base, building Linux file-serving solutions that can seamlessly integrate into an AD infrastructure is deemed critical by many organizations. To that end, this chapter will also introduce several of the technologies that promote file serving across the heterogeneous enterprise.


Chapter 6: Managing High-Performance, Scalable, and Resilient Data Across the Enterprise

The two previous chapters took an in-depth look at both Windows and Linux file-serving solutions and how these two operating systems (OSs) present individual challenges and advantages in the areas of performance, scalability, availability, and integration. As vendors have worked to manage and mitigate these challenges, varying new technologies have been developed to meet the need to manage data. As each new incarnation is adopted, heterogeneous networks have developed over time, presenting challenges in the areas of integration, backup and recovery, and freedom to manage your storage solution the way you see fit.

This chapter will examine the broader enterprise picture and leverage what previous chapters have discussed to develop a clearer understanding of the high-level responsibilities (and granular realities) of managing data across the enterprise. This chapter will assume a holistic vantage point to examine the challenges faced in the enterprise today and touch on key points to consider when defining the strategy behind building highly scalable enterprise file-serving solutions. Let’s begin by examining a few of the challenges faced in heterogeneous networks and how those challenges come into play in the enterprise and progress into the areas of backup and recovery.