Servers & Systems: The Right Compute

Storage architectures SMB IT professionals should know


Learn about storage architectures and what they can do for small and midsize business IT.

smb_storage_architectures_blog.jpgYou don’t need to be an expert on storage for your small and midsize business (SMB), but you should be familiar with a few common primary storage architectures. These architectures are sometimes confused with specific protocols that various subsystems use to connect to the computing infrastructure. Let’s try and clear things up.

Direct Attached Storage (DAS)—The simplest type of data storage subsystem is typically located within or attached directly to a server. Access to data on a DAS subsystem is only available to users logged on to that server. DAS can refer to the drives inside a server or to an external storage enclosure directly connected to that server. In a DAS configuration, one or more data storage components, such as HDDs or SSDs, are either installed in a computer or connected directly to it—often with a SAS link. With DAS, each server is configured with its own separate storage. One emerging storage option is shared DAS, in which a fixed number of servers are connected directly to a storage system instead of using a SAN or a SAN fabric.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)—With this architecture, a dedicated file server or file gateway is attached to a local area network (LAN) that is running an operating system dedicated specifically to serving files to its users. NAS is essentially a dedicated file server running an operating system that is designed and tuned specifically to handle file-based I/O traffic for network clients. With NAS, all clients have access to the same storage via the LAN. Client computer access to the NAS server usually occurs over an Ethernet (LAN) connection. The NAS server appears on the network as a single node with its own IP address. Files stored on the NAS system are accessible to clients on the LAN over the Ethernet connection via protocols such as CIFS/SMB (Windows® clients) or NFS (Linux® and UNIX®). Many NAS systems also support protocols such as HTTP or FTP for Internet-based file access. NAS products range from low-cost, home office-quality devices up to clustered, enterprise-class NAS gateways that provide file connectivity to traditional SAN storage arrays. Some new NAS technologies are capable of scaling not only “up” in capacity but also “out” in performance as the NAS file repository grows.

Storage Area Network (SAN)—A SAN is a dedicated network for storage traffic that is established between servers and a shared storage device or multiple devices, also known as storage arrays. Most SANs are specifically designed to provide high-speed access to stored data with low latencies. Pooling storage resources and then sharing it across multiple servers is what enables application clusters for high availability. In architectures with high availability, if one server goes down, the data is still available for processing by another server running that same application and attached to the same network. A SAN is a network that is dedicated to storage. The SAN is separate from the LAN and provides servers with access to storage. A SAN is designed to handle storage communications and has the added benefit that the servers and devices do not need to contend with traffic from other devices or users on the same network. In its simplest form, a SAN consists of:

  • Shared storage (typically a disk array)
  • A high-speed dedicated network that lets servers and storage “talk” to each other—typically as a switched network
  • Data services to help manage and protect data in the SAN

Software-defined storage technologies—Software-defined storage (SDS) is the delivery of storage data services (such as snapshots, thin provisioning, and multisite disaster recovery) on top of industry-standard hardware, such as your existing x86-based servers. This is done entirely with software, and allows you to leverage existing equipment investments. The differentiating benefit of SDS comes from rich data services based in software. For storage, this means efficiencies such as thin provisioning, snapshots and disaster recovery. These technologies are held together by one common management interface. For true portability and flexibility, these should be open. Check out this blog to learn in detail about the various storage interfaces (SATA vs. SAS vs. NVMe, for instance).

HPE provides affordable storage systems for your SMB without limitation

Run through this simple checklist to help determine which storage architecture is right for your business.

  • Limited by budget? Cost effectively combine entry storage with your server by adding StoreVirtual or MSA to HPE ProLiant servers. Start out with low cost SAS or iSCSI connections then swap to Fibre Channel down the road. Or skip dedicated SAN appliances completely and implement StoreVirtual VSA technology.
  • Limited by capacity? IT generalists and application administrators can easily setup and manage powerful data storage solutions from HPE—often with familiar tools from VMware and Microsoft. NAS solutions offer easy sharing of file data. SAN products can be setup in minutes.
  • Limited by downtime? An entry-level budget doesn’t make downtime any more acceptable. With features like hardware and network RAID, stretch cluster support, snapshots, and remote replication, the HPE Entry Storage portfolio keeps you up and running.
  • Limited by performance? Address the needs of your performance hungry applications with built-in flash to accelerate workloads from day 1. Consolidate the data from most of your applications, including performance-intensive databases as well as productivity apps like Microsoft SQL and Exchange.

Learn more

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Ready to take the next step? Check out the SMB Hybrid IT for Dummies Guide. Because there are no “dumb” questions!

Or are you ready to purchase? Visit the HPE Store.



Mark Simpkins
Hewlett Packard Enterprise


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About the Author


Mark is the marketing manager for the Small and Midsized Segment here at HPE. He blogs on topics of interest that can help our SMB servers and solutions customers and partners.