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Scale-Out NAS Storage Vs. Scale-Up – What Is More Suitable for Your Data Center

As a storage admin, one of the most important decisions you can make is whether or not to scale up or scale-out your NAS storage. So which one suits your data center better? Is scale-up enough for your current infrastructure, or should you consider moving towards the scale-out storage? Here we will be answering precisely that.

Scale-Up or Scale-Out NAS Storage

There is a change in how enterprises consume data and how data itself is changing. Storage arrays continue to increase in capacity at a rapid pace. On the other hand, the hardware has been increasing at a much slower pace. This widening gap between storage and processing power has forced designers to rethink traditional enterprise systems.

Enterprise IT managers often face the dilemma of deciding on the most effective solution for their corporate data storage. Scale-up involves buying servers with more capacity for hard drives. On the other hand, Scale-out allows clustering different servers together and gives you more granular control over your data and cost savings.

Scale-Out & Scale-up NAS Storage – Which is Better?

Scaling up means adding new disks or hardware while keeping the same number of physical devices. Scaling out or horizontal scaling means adding more devices to the storage. This is a major decision that requires careful thought and careful execution.

So, what happens when you scale up. You essentially buy a storage system or a NAS box and add more shelves with more drives. You can keep on adding more drives until it reaches their capacity. In normal circumstances, most of the applications will not outrun the capacity and performance of what a scale-out enterprise NAS has to offer. Furthermore, it is much simpler to set up than scale out Network Attached Storage (more on that later). In most use cases, a scale-up strategy will be just fine.

However, things can get out of hand quickly with use cases like archiving, cloud storage, hosting, etc. This is the age of big data, of IOT and random but valuable data generated from trillions of devices simultaneously. Businesses dealing with such data can’t just cut with scale-up strategy. Part of the reason is cost. With the scale-up approach, you will have to keep buying separate systems or may behave to replace older systems for newer ones to make up for the performance.

In contrast, scale-out solutions allow you to cluster different nodes or NAS boxes together to achieve an aggregated performance. Now here is where things get interesting. A business that does not have extreme storage requirements will have more cost savings with a scale-up solution than with a scale-out solution and vice versa.

Why, you ask? It is simple. Businesses that don’t need fast access to data are better of with cheap spinning hard drives as they don’t necessarily need to scale performance that much. On the other hand, businesses that deal with things like data analytics will probably use flash storage, at least for running their OS and critical apps. In this case, the costs of a scale-out system goes up.

Consider this.

Clustering systems require complex networking, and you have to connect the nodes in a way that users see as one piece of storage. Let us say we have to write data to the storage. First, there needs to be clustering software that stripes down the data between different nodes, and it requires a lot of backend communication.

This will have a significant performance impact, specifically in the case of flash storage. That is because we are talking about flash and not spinning hard drives. In hard-drive-based scale-out storage, that isn’t big of a deal because we have hard drive latency anyways. But in the case of flash storage, there is no latency. This means we are not getting the required performance from the flash array as we should because encoding could have a noticeable performance impact.

So to make up for the performance, the hardware power needs to be increased for the NAS boxes. And guess what, that increases the total cost of ownership. This will be a cost-saving endeavor for businesses that need that kind of performance. But for the majority, scale-out will not be practical.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning on expanding the storage, it’s worth considering how quickly you’ll need the extra space and what kind of performance you need. The more nodes in a scale-out NAS system, the faster they’ll go because they’re sharing their resources among all the other devices. That said, if your workload doesn’t require top-flight performance, you may be able to get by with something like an entry-level NAS.

Hopefully, now you can decide which strategy is best suited for your data center. If you are a large business that needs super storage, we recommend checking out StoneFly super scale out NAS storage. They offer one of the best NAS systems with many features like automatic storage tiering, Anti-ransomware, and much more.

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