What is Block Storage?
With block storage, each storage volume functions as a separate hard drive that has been set up by the storage administrator. Data is saved to the storage medium in fixed-sized units called blocks under the block storage model. The only piece of metadata that is assigned to each block is its specific address.
Block storage is managed by a piece of software separate from the storage medium that directs where and how the blocks are arranged on storage drives. The software also manages data retrieval, it uses metadata to find the desired blocks and then arranges the data in them into complete files.
Storage blocks are managed by the server-based operating system and typically accessed using the iSCSI, Fibre Channel, or Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) protocols. Block storage is frequently used in storage-area network (SAN) environments in place of file storage for high-performance, mission-critical applications that demand consistent input/output (I/O) performance and low latency.
Many enterprise applications depend on block storage, so some cloud vendors also provide block storage services in addition to their object storage offerings. AWS Elastic Block Storage, Google Cloud Persistent Disks, and Rackspace Cloud Block Storage are a few well-known block services available in the cloud.
Instances of block storage.
Block storage has continued to support mission-critical and data-intensive workloads primarily on-premises. But it seems as though this is altering. Organizations are increasingly using cloud block storage as they search for more effective and adaptable ways to support their workloads.
Block storage volumes are treated as separate hard disks, so the method is effective for storing a wide range of applications:
- Block storage is used as opposed to network- or file-based storage systems by email servers like Microsoft Exchange.
- Another popular application for block storage is RAID arrays. RAID combines multiple independent disks for performance and data security. Block storage works well with RAID because it can produce individually controlled storage volumes.
- Another typical application for block-level storage is virtual machine file systems. Block storage protocols, which can enhance migration performance and scalability, are supported by virtualization vendors like VMware. The ability to create non-standard SCSI commands is another benefit of using a SAN for block storage in virtual machine (VM) management.
Block vs. file storage
While using block storage has advantages, there are other options that might be more appropriate for particular businesses or uses. When it comes to competing with block-level storage, file storage and object storage stand out.
Block-level storage may not be superior to file storage if simplicity is the main concern. Although block storage devices are typically more expensive and complex than file storage, they also typically offer better performance.
In general, file storage is less expensive than block storage and offers a centralized, very accessible location for files. File storage is a practical option for a company looking to simply store a lot of data because it uses metadata and directories to organize files.
The relatively simple deployment of file storage makes it a viable tool for data protection, and the low costs and straightforward organization can be useful for local archiving. Another typical application for file storage is file sharing within a company. The ease of file storage can also be a drawback. Despite having a hierarchical structure, the more files added, the more time-consuming and difficult it is to sort through file storage. File storage loses out to object or block-level storage if performance is the deciding factor.
Some products, like Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HP) 3PAR’s File Persona service, have combined file and block storage to offer the advantages of both technologies.
Although object storage offers a lot of flexibility and scalability, some organizations may prioritize performance and opt for file or block storage. Unlike object stores, which can only be edited as a whole, block storage allows for incremental file editing. Performance may suffer if an object must be accessed, updated, and then rewritten in order to edit a single portion of it.
Enterprises use both object-level storage and block-level storage, but the use cases for object storage tend to focus more on scenarios involving large amounts of data, such as big data storage and backup archives. As a result, object-based storage is arguably becoming more popular than file and block storage options in contemporary data storage environments like the cloud. The type of storage used, however, will always depend on the needs of each individual.
Data centers and other locations, including satellite and remote offices, can now have the flexibility of the cloud thanks to GreenLake, a service offering. When you sign up for a HPE GreenLake product, HPE sends you a full, pre-configured system with all the required hardware and software to start using it right away.
Additionally, HPE manages the system for the duration of its life. Customers in return pay a monthly subscription fee that is based on a pay-for-use pricing model similar to many cloud services.
HPE provides several infrastructure packages with GreenLake to support various workload types. For instance, the composable package offers options for implementing a software-driven composable infrastructure, and the virtualization package offers options for implementing a GreenLake solution that runs virtualized applications. Along with offering packages for these workloads, HPE also offers packages for storage, backup, database management, big data, private cloud, and high-performance computing.
Workings of HPE GreenLake
The HP hardware that underpins each GreenLake implementation is at the core of these packages. For instance, HP SimpliVity could be used in a virtualization solution, and HP Synergy could be used in a GreenLake composable infrastructure. Additionally, GreenLake products use HP hardware like ProLiant DL servers and Nimble storage, as well as third-party applications and services like Docker, Hadoop, SAP HANA, Nutanix AHV, VMware Cloud Foundation, Microsoft Azure, and AWS.
GreenLake solutions include professional and operational services from HPE Pointnext, a group of experts who assist with the implementation, management, and support of each GreenLake offering, in addition to the hardware and software. Monitoring, managing, and optimizing each system are among the end-to-end services that Pointnext offers. These offerings distinguish GreenLake significantly from a straightforward leasing program that only rents out hardware equipment.
A more recent offering from HPE is GreenLake Central, an integrated management control plane that gives users a unified view of all IT operations, including edge environments, private and public clouds, and management of all types of infrastructure.
Monitoring usage, cost, security, compliance, performance, and other metrics is made possible by GreenLake Central’s self-service portal. Additionally, the portal enables business units and developers to locate and use the services they require at the appropriate time.