Data storage remains outside the SOA circle

Storage remains the red-headed stepchild of SOA, often because storage is regarded only as a peripheral device connected to an application-hosting platform. Despite a decade's worth of development in networked storage architecture--beginning with the appearance of NAS appliances and continuing with Fibre Channel fabrics and burgeoning IP SANs--storage components are still not considered peers in a peer-to-peer service-oriented environment.

Storage, like any other costly infrastructure layer, must bow to the realities of price and performance. The utilization efficiency of storage infrastructure--a ratio of cost and capacity and the type of data stored on a storage platform--remains abysmally poor in distributed environments: It's under 20 percent, according to Fred Moore, founder of Horison Information Strategies. Allocation efficiency, how well the sheer volume of data is distributed across storage platforms, is improving with the virtualization of storage infrastructure, but it is still well below that of mainframe DASD farms.

These statistics reflect two things. First, the concept of a real SAN--a peer-to-peer network of storage and server platforms--has not yet materialized. What we call a SAN today is a channel fabric, which supports the automated allocation of resources and management of data movements only on a basic level. Second, we lack a sufficient understanding of apps and the data they create and use to create a truly intelligent or policy-based engine for managing resources or data movements.

In storage terms, SOA means realizing the original value proposition of SANs that envisioned a true storage network featuring an any-to-any relationship between heterogeneous servers and heterogeneous storage devices. What's more, the SAN would be vested with sufficient smarts to give applications not just "a drink of storage" but the specific quantity and type of beverage that the application required for optimal performance. For that to happen, there will need to be significantly more embedded intelligence and much better communication between applications and storage infrastructure than today's SANs can support.