Disk array

What is a disk array?

The term disk array refers to a dedicated storage system comprised of a group of disks working together to achieve a higher data transfer rate. They can be used to store data blocks, files, or objects depending on the requirement. The multiple drives work together with an array controller to improve performance and redundancy. Modern disk arrays have built-in, complex features like RAID controllers that can provide redundancy. They can also be configured with logical unit numbers to improve security.

Components in a disk array

A standard disk array, whether it's high-end or low-end, includes the following components:

  • A steady power supply
  • Cache memory for both RAM and flash memory
  • Special controllers (i.e., a RAID controller or a disk array controller)
  • Disk enclosures for HDDs and SSDs

The above components can be hot-swapped. This means that when replacing or adding new components, the system need not be shut down, so a disk array's maintenance won't affect the uptime of businesses.

How can disk arrays improve a network?

Though the primary goal of a storage disk array is simply to store data separately from a server, they also have a wide range of applications. Relatively cheap disk arrays with a few gigabytes or terabytes of storage can be used by small- to mid-sized businesses, whereas large arrays with hundreds of terabytes worth of storage can be used by enterprise businesses.

Low-end arrays are simple storage devices with no additional features like redundancy or data loss protection. They can be used in small businesses with a handful of servers or systems where there is less data traffic. On the other hand, high-end, enterprise-level arrays are truly monstrous, capable of numerous transactions per second with almost zero downtime and added redundancy features, ensuring no data loss.

A disk array's function varies according to the type of disks used. Arrays using HDDs or SSDs have the same architecture and configuration, but their function varies. HDD storage arrays, also called disk arrays, improve the redundancy of your storage. A disk array will have hundreds of HDDs and data will be backed up on multiple disks, so there will be sufficient redundancy for a team to troubleshoot before all the data is lost. Arrays using SSDs are called flash arrays, and they have a higher performance speed than HDD arrays. SSDs are much more costly than HDDs, so they are often used together to improve redundancy and performance.

Disk array categories

Based on their usage, disk arrays can be categorized into two types:

  • Storage area network (SAN)
  • Network-attached storage (NAS)

Storage area network

A SAN is a collection of disks that are connected to a network and can be accessed by multiple servers. It is used by enterprise-level businesses to achieve consolidated, block-level storage. Instead of storing the data on local servers, large businesses might decide to store data in a storage system used exclusively for this purpose. And as disk array storages are known for their redundancy, a SAN employed by an enterprise-level business ensures that the storage pool is available at all times.

Network-attached storage

NAS is a dedicated storage server with arrays of HDDs or a combination of HDDs and SSDs connected to a network. It is a file-level storage server designed to serve files, and it can be accessed by computers via a LAN. NAS is quite popular in enterprise businesses as it enables users to share data and collaborate easily as long as their devices are connected to the network. Users sharing documents with their coworkers is an example of this.

Bottlenecks in monitoring a disk array

Storage devices are crucial to the proper functioning of a network, so when they malfunction, they have the capacity to take down the entire business with them. Disk arrays are much the same, but since each disk array is made up of many components, there are multiple things that can go wrong.

The disk array controllers or storage array controllers integrated with the disk arrays can be overutilized, resulting in slower performance. When requests pile up, the disk array controller cannot process them fast enough, resulting in backlogs of unprocessed requests. Monitoring the CPU utilization will go a long way in improving the array speed.

If the space consumed by network devices is not measured from time to time, it could result in a server or application crash, or worse. Keeping track of the disk space of multiple disk arrays is unimaginably tedious, but it is a necessity to prevent disk space from running out without warning, and to maintain unhindered uptime.

There are countless bottlenecks in properly monitoring disk arrays without a management tool—we could keep going on about the difficulties. Because a disk array has many points of failure, a unified monitoring tool is the most efficient way to monitor it. And due to these difficulties, it may seem like the only way to use disk arrays efficiently without any trouble is to predict any upcoming failures. This might sound impossible, but some monitoring tools, like ManageEngine OpManager, have a range of features to help, from failure-predicting forecasting reports to downtime-preventing performance monitors.

How can OpManager improve the performance of disk arrays?

OpManager is a network monitoring tool with an integrated storage monitoring solution, and gives you the flexibility to manage all your storage devices from a single console. OpManager has the following functionalities that will make your disk array environment slippery smooth.

Use historic data to predict storage capacity

OpManager monitors your storage devices and stores the data. This historical data can be analyzed and used to predict storage consumption in the future. With OpManager's storage capacity forecasting, you can predict the exact dates when your devices will reach a specific percentage of their storage capacity. Using these insights, you can predict when a device might need an upgrade or maintenance, and plan accordingly.

Monitor individual disks to reinforce redundancy

OpManager has over 42,000 device templates to identify, configure, and monitor hard drives at a moment's notice. Monitor the health and availability of the HDDs and SSDs in your disk arrays, and receive real-time alerts if something goes amiss. With the detailed reports you receive from OpManager, you can proactively monitor the disks in your array, make configuration changes when necessary, and ensure the overall performance is top-notch. With OpManager, your disk arrays will be equipped with twice the redundancy and half the failure rate.

Keep track of your storage assets with SAN monitoring

SANs are used by enterprise-level businesses, so there should be no room for error in any of their components. With OpManager, you get a list of all the storage devices in your SAN, and the solution collects data about the components, such as IP address, DNS name, vendor, device type, category, and device status. If any of the devices show signs of malfunction, OpManager will detect it and alert you about the performance dip. With all of these SAN monitoring features and more, OpManager can help make your SAN environment trouble-free and performance-rich.

Manage RAIDs to keep them healthy

Since RAIDs are also a collection of arrays, like disk arrays, OpManager has extensive RAID monitoring capabilities, too. It can help you manage your assets by providing a list of all assets in your network, from routers to HDDs, and it can also monitor them. You can monitor the health and availability of RAIDs, get consistent reports on their performance, visualize them in a topological map with color-coded icons to identify them with ease, and do much more with OpManager.

Disk array FAQ

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