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Entering a new era in IT information
Yesterday's announcement that IBM had acquired XIV to offer storage for Web 2.0 applicationsprompted a lot of discussion in both the media and the blogosphere. Several indicated thatit was about time that one of the major vendors stepped forward to provide this, and it madesense that IBM, the leader in storage hardware marketshare, would be the first. Others were perhaps confused on what is unique with Web 2.0 applications. What has changed?
I'll use this graphic to help explain how we have transitioned through three eras of storage.
The first era: Server-centric
In the 1950s, IBM introduced both tape and disk systems into a very server-centric environment.Dumb terminals and dumb storage devices were managed entirely by the brains inside the server.These machines were designed for Online Transaction Processing (OLTP), everywhere from bookingflights on airlines to handling financial transfers.
The second era: Network-centric
In the 1980s and 1990s, dumb terminals were replaced with smarter workstations and personalcomputers; and dumb storage were replaced with smarter storage controllers. Local Area Networks (LANs)and Storage Area Networks (SANs) allowed more cooperative processing between users, servers andstorage. However, servers maintained their role as gatekeepers. Users had to go through aspecific server or server cluster to access the storage they had access to. These servers continuedtheir role in OLTP, but also manage informational databases, file sharing and web serving.
The third era: Information-centric
Today, we are entering a third era. Servers are no longer the gatekeepers. Smart workstationsand personal computers are now supplemented with even more intelligent handheld devices, Blackberryand iPhones, for example. Storage is more intelligent too, with some being able to offer file sharingand web serving directly, without the need of an intervening server. The roles of servers have changed,from gatekeepers, to ones that focuses on crunching the numbers, and making information presentableand useful.
Here is where Web 2.0 applications, digital media and archives fits in. These are focused on unstructured data that don't require relational database management systems. So long as the useris authorized, subscribed and/or has made the appropriate payment, she can access the information. With the appropriate schemes in place, information can now be mashed-up in a variety of ways, combined with other information that can render insights and help drive new innovations.
Of course, we will still have databases and online transaction processing to book our flights andtransfer our funds, but this new era brings in new requirements for information storage, and newarchitectures that help optimize this new approach.