The average consumer may be unaware of high-end storage and network technologies such as pNFS, PCIe and 10Gb Ethernet (10GbE), but they could revolutionise the consumer PC market in ways that most consumers can’t even begin to imagine.
Henry Newman analyses how consumers will eventually benefit all the exiting technologies that are now being used by enterprises and datacenters:
“One of the biggest problems for home PC users is migration of data to new systems. Most consumers get new computers every three to five years. During that period, the amount of data they amass from cameras, video, music and everything else increases fairly dramatically. Getting that data from one system to another is no easy task. You can use USB, Ethernet or some other method, but it can be a slow process.
A cottage industry of products and services has sprung up just to move your data, including external storage devices that are basically low-end NAS devices. Data Robotics (Drobo), HP, EMC, Seagate, Western Digital, and many others, have all stepped in to fill the need. I am not going to talk about the merits of products or methods, but needless to say, some products are designed for some parts of the market better than others, and some are easier to use and to migrate to new technologies than others.
So you have small NAS boxes getting more affordable and disk drive costs dropping significantly, but the performance to move data to a new system is constant or at best a bit faster, so with so much more data, it is a big problem to reliably move it all. Another thing to remember is that these home NAS devices are relatively slow compared to the speed of a hard drive. The performance available today for home PCs ranges in the marketing literature from 100 MB/sec to 66 MB/sec. We all know what marketing speak is, but for the sake of this discussion, I will use the upper end at 100 MB/sec. The fastest current NAS network connectivity is 1Gbit Ethernet, but plenty of PCs are limited to Firewire or USB-2 speeds.
Using 1GbE hardware, NAS speeds are limited to a peak of 125 MB/sec. The real number when you add NFS or CIFS communications protocols and file system overhead is more like 30 MB/sec for write and maybe 50 MB/sec for read. So at best this current crop of NAS boxes is much slower than disk drives, between one-half and one-third the performance of current disk drive technology. This all changes when 10GbE becomes available later this year at commodity pricing; then the channel becomes much faster than the drives. For now, though the usage model for these low-end NAS devices is for bulk storage. They are not fast enough to replace local disk drives yet and the latency is high, but with 10GbE, pNFS and faster, lower-latency PCIe buses, the game will change.
When a home user wants to upgrade storage, generally what happens is users get new storage with a new machine and have to move the files on the old system to the new one. This is a great business model for many organizations that support national chains that charge good money to move the files to the new system. With technologies like Drobo and others that allow for storage migration inside the box to higher density storage, data migration becomes significantly easier, as you just have to add new disk drives and wait for the box to rebuild itself. The problem today is these technologies are too slow for many home users doing video editing or editing large photos or temporary files; the write performance is just too slow and read is not much better. These performance problems get eliminated with the commoditization of 10GbE. The Ethernet connection will be faster than the drives, which has never happened to my memory. 10GbE speeds are around 400 MB/sec to 600 MB/sec for some vendors, including the NFS overhead. Imagine that for video editing.”
Read the whole analysis: A Home PC Revolution Coming (enterprisestorageforum.com)