What is Block Storage?

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What is Block Storage?

Block storage is a type of data storage that stores data in volumes, or blocks, which act as individual hard disk drives (HDD). Blocks are used to store data, software, code, dependencies, configurations and other files. Each storage block has its own file system and parks different information types between partitions. Logical unit numbers (LUNs) separate blocks, allowing each HDD to add or resize files. Block storage is often used for enterprise-level storage area networks (SANs) and is controlled by one operating system (OS).

How block storage is used and who uses it

For those who use legacy storage as their primary means of maintaining data, proprietary information and software, block storage allows all of this to be read and written using each individual block address within a formatted HDD. Software and applications housed within blocks are stored there because of their constant input/output (I/O) executions. Storage blocks within HDDs can be configured, reconfigured, and moved around the SAN. They also let administrators protect individual blocks with permissions for other users. For enterprise-level use, blocks or volumes of storage can be mapped with a client application to optimize space, security and ease of retrievability.

For large global or corporate ventures with highly-secured filing systems like those used by medical facilities and the federal government, HDD arrays offer great security at the server and data center level. However, the argument for HDD arrays is quickly losing steam in the face of newer, faster, more secure and more affordably run all-flash arrays.

Why enterprise users are migrating toward all-flash storage

No matter the age of a corporate entity, its IT staff is staying up-to-date in terms of the newer technologies in storage options. A CEO and board members may not understand the need to migrate from blocks or volumes on HDD arrays, but their tech team surely does. Generally, there will be a push to move from HDD storage using blocks on spinning disks to solid state storage (SSS) that house all-flash arrays. Within the data center, all-flash arrays mounted on SSS racks will outperform HDD at every turn. Some vendors, such as Tintri, even offer all-flash arrays whose software provides the most granular level of storage available today: management of individual virtual machines (VMs) and containers, or cloud applications.

The difference is tremendous.

Blocks are irrelevant constructs in a cloud environment and are unable to deliver the level of granularity and abstraction of cloud applications, which are the currency of cloud.

Cloud applications are the language of cloud and other virtualized environments for file, software and app storage and deployment. For enterprise use, application-level management offers the following advantages that blocks (also called volumes) simply can’t deliver:

  • Autonomy: Each application is assigned its own lane to avoid infighting among apps for resources. This is done automatically, removing the issue of manual shuffling required when you use block storage.

  • Automation: Through the use of representational state transfer application programming interfaces (RESTful APIs), users can automate tasks with public cloud-like speed and agility that are only executable through manual manipulation within blocks.

  • Total visibility: With application-level analytics, unlike with block- or volume-level analytics—you can see every application across your entire infrastructure in real time. You can also troubleshoot throughout the host, network and storage of your infrastructure, which just isn't possible with blocks on HDDs.

  • Independence: When you’re on application-level infrastructure, if something goes wrong, you won’t need an army of IT professionals to resolve the issue. Any admin you give permissions to can see every application from one simple interface, which even offers online chat features for superior ease of use for you and your team.

Block storage on racks and in data centers

For those not ready to transition from LUNs and blocks to VMs and containers, or for the enterprise that wants to use a combination of blocks and VMs, there are certainly ways to make block storage work on racks and within data centers.

Migrating or supplementing legacy storage with Tintri

HDDs, blocks and the LUNs within them can’t offer the performance you’ll get from a storage architecture that lets you isolate applications. But the availability of public, private and hybrid cloud environments in addition to SaaS, PaaS and IaaS services has made discussing storage technology options for your venture a complex conversation.

If you’ve been using conventional storage for years and fear the transition to a cloud environment, there's no need to stress. Tintri products and software, all-flash and hybrid-flash arrays and management tools, you get the storage solutions that work best for your enterprise. Once you’ve successfully transitioned some of your storage to flash arrays on SSS, you can decide if you want to keep going, or you can opt to maintain some legacy storage.

Moving past HDDs and blocks into the world of containers

Tintri vSphere Integrated Containers bring you a world of all-flash storage that is virtualized, ultra-fast and scalable. You can keep all your data and your network intact, because vSphere doesn't require any re-architecture. That means you'll get all the benefits of real-time and predictive analytics without the need for high-level expertise or dreaded downtime. After a simple, one-time setup, your enterprise will continue humming along, and your DevOps team won't have to stop managing and deploying—and they won't lose visibility, either. Quality of Service (QoS) for performance, scalability, visibility and other container-level storage managed with vSphere is guaranteed.