What is Tiered Storage? Our Guide on Everything You Need to Know

Storage has become a significant component of IT budgets as organizations race to keep up with ever-growing volumes of data. This trend will likely continue as organizations embrace new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and advanced analytics.

As data volumes continue to increase, organizations must also evolve to accommodate this. Storage tiering is one strategy that companies can use to optimize the utilization of storage resources, save costs, and backup data efficiently. Learn more about how tiered storage works, its advantages, best practices, and different data tiers.

What Is Storage Tiering?

Storage tiering—also called tiered storage—is a technique that assigns data to various categories of storage media based on requirements such as cost, availability, performance, and recovery. Storage tiering is an essential component of information lifecycle management (ILM) that organizations can use to minimize storage costs while ensuring performance and compliance.

For example, organizations can archive data retained for regulatory requirements on old storage devices. This way, the company saves costs by using older storage technologies that would have otherwise been decommissioned. Storage tiering can also enable companies to reduce on-premises storage expenses by storing each data class based on the minimum throughput requirements. This ensures they don’t pay for unnecessary high-performance storage costs.

Most importantly, storage tiering can minimize the costs associated with achieving zero recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) significantly. By allowing data required for restoration to be stored, tiered storage allows companies to minimize the volume of data the disaster recovery systems should recover in the event of a disruption.

What Are Storage Tiering Data Classes?

There are four typical data classes for storage tiering:

What Are the Tiered Storage Types?

The table below summarizes the characteristics of five basic storage tiers:

Tier Description Storage media
Tier 0 This storage tier stores highly volatile data that are time-sensitive. Tier 0 is appropriate for high-performance workloads. You can use Random Access Memory (RAM), Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) Flash, and Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) to store data in this tier.
Tier 1 Tier 1 is appropriate for mission-critical data. You can use fast drives, all-flash storage (AFA), and hybrid-flash storage to store data in tier 1.
Tier 2/3 This tier stores backup for mission-critical and business-critical data. These tiers include slow-spinning HDDs, disk-based backup appliances, tape drives, and cloud storage.
Tier 4 This tier stores warm data from recently completed transactions and emails that are a few days old. You can use serial advanced technology attachment (SATA) drives to store data in this tier.
Tier 5 This tier stores cold data that is hardly or never accessed in the organization. You can use tape storage or cloud storage services such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) Glacier.

What Are Some Storage Tier Best Practices?

Below are four best practices you should keep in mind when implementing storage tiering:

1. Do not underestimate flash caching.

Flash caching, which uses SSD to store the most frequently accessed data, is faster than traditional HDDs. Traditionally, organizations have used flash storage only as a standard tier 1 system. However, flash caching can increase retrieval times significantly without increasing costs when implemented correctly.

For example, rather than just using SSD as a standard flash tier, you could use caching to hold data for exactly as long as required and then move it to the lower-tiered storage layer. This way, only the most essential data gets stored to the SSD.

2. Always ensure that your network is performing optimally.

Network performance has a significant impact on how your storage systems operate. You need to ensure your network is functioning optimally and can transfer data at the speeds your tiers provide. Without a high-performing network to support the tiers, your performance will still suffer no matter how high capacity or fast your tiered storage architecture is.

3. Always optimize the disk storage.

When it comes to performance, using disk storage is one of the best ways to optimize operations such as backups and restores. Since disk storage largely handles vast volumes of data, you need to maximize its utilization by optimizing read/write speeds and using high revolutions per minute (RPM) drives.

Depending on the underlying disc structure, you can also use buffered reads/writes to increase throughput.

4. Consider cloud storage.

Cloud storage provides storage tiered with a predictable capital expenditure (CapEx) scheme and can not be ignored. Compared to on-premises storage options, cloud storage is flexible and scalable. As such, you can store data without any significant investment in storage devices by leveraging a flexible, pay-as-you-go pricing scheme.

Depending on performance and cost implications, you could also deploy a hybrid architecture that combines on-premises and off-site storage.

Hyper-Converged Tier Storage Support with Parallels RAS

Organizations are increasingly adopting hyper-converged storage solutions because they offer greater control over storage provisioning in virtualized environments. Besides providing a single management console, IT teams can connect and horizontally scale-out hyper-converged storage nodes easily.

When combined with a robust virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution, hyper-converged storage can allow businesses to minimize costs and eliminate complexities in IT administration. Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) supports major hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solutions such as HPE, Nutanix, and Scale Computing.

While HCI solutions combine compute, networking, and storage components, Parallels RAS integrates application and desktop delivery interfaces into a centralized console. This allows IT teams to monitor, report, and manage such resources via a single pane of glass.

Organizations can use Parallels RAS to simplify datacenter management while significantly reducing costs associated with the application and desktop delivery in HCI environments.

Test-drive Parallels RAS today, and optimize your hyper-converged tiered storage!