EMC has outlined its Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) vision and announced delivery of the technology, which it says will revolutionise the way storage is managed.

The new EMC FAST technology automates the movement of data within a storage system, replacing hours or even days of repetitive, manual storage administrative tasks. As a result, an average system configuration with a combination of EMC FAST technology, enterprise flash drives and SATA disk drives can deliver higher service levels while reducing storage acquisition costs by at least 20% and lowering storage operational expenses by 40%.
EMC’s FAST technology will serve as the foundation for integrating all of its leading storage efficiency and automation capabilities, allowing IT organisations to manage more information more efficiently in a smaller footprint, use less power and cooling, and lower storage capital and operational costs.
EMC’s FAST technology ensures that the right information is in the right place at the right time and is optimised for both highest performance and lowest cost. It combines the performance benefits of enterprise flash drives, which can increase application performance by as much as 800% for active data, with the cost benefits of high capacity SATA disk drives, which can lower cost-per-megabyte by as much as 80% for inactive data.
With the ongoing growth of information and the new requirements of the emerging dynamic virtual data centre and private clouds, IT organisations require new tools that provide the automation and simplification necessary to deliver IT as a service. EMC’s FAST technology represents a major inflection point in the storage industry and will transform the way information infrastructures are built and used by IT organisations.
EMC’s vision for FAST is to combine capabilities including sub-LUN tiering, capacity allocation on demand, block and file level de-duplication, data compression, disk drive spin down, built-in archiving, and private and public cloud federation to provide unprecedented levels of automation, management, and cost efficiencies.
The first phase of EMC FAST technology runs on new and existing EMC Symmetrix V-Max and EMC Clariion CX4 networked storage systems, and EMC Celerra NS  unified storage systems. Key capabilities include:
* The ability to easily create and apply tiering policies to transparently automate the control, placement and movement of data within the storage system based on business needs.
* Sophisticated built-in software to monitor, analyse and respond to changes in the value and access patterns of the data to self-optimise storage resources, allowing applications to leverage the ultra-high performance of enterprise flash drives as well as maximise the cost, energy, and footprint efficiencies of high-capacity SATA drives.
* Flexible and robust policies that enable users to define tiering rules to support service-level requirements automatically or with administrator approval.
* Innovative file system capabilities that permit integration with internal private clouds and external cloud service providers to seamlessly federate placement and movement of file-based and unstructured data.
* Advanced management capabilities that automate the end-to-end discovery and reporting of applications to storage tiers to easily view storage resource topologies and attributes, capacity allocation and free space, and real time and historical performance metrics to enable pay for use and charge back operational models.
Gerhard van der Merwe, country manager of EMC Southern Africa, comments: “Over the past two years, EMC has optimised all of its major storage architectures to support new levels of automation required in virtual data centre environments and for the transition to private clouds.
"These dynamic and agile environments require the capabilities that EMC’s FAST technology provides for effective management and scaling. This is an area of significant investment for EMC and we are the only one offering this technology across high-end, mid-tier and unified platforms.
“EMC’s FAST technology is all about optimising based on how applications need to access data," he says. "Sometimes that means optimising for increased performance to process more transactions, and other times that means automatically optimising to enable lower costs.
"The intelligence we’ve built into our FAST technology is based on hundreds of man years of development time and years of working with thousands of customer application profiles to build predictive models based on how real-world applications are accessing data. EMC FAST technology is designed to make the underlying technologies and infrastructure more efficient, more dynamic, and ultimately invisible to the end user.
“Managing the explosive growth in file, unstructured and object-based data is a major challenge. Doing it without meaningful automation and policy management is nearly impossible. EMC’s FAST technology allows customers to move and tier this data within a system, across system types, or into the cloud. This not only provides a range of new archive approaches, it also dramatically simplifies the management of unstructured data at scale.”