Block Storage

What is Block Storage?

Block storage is the simplest form of data storage and is typically used in storage area network (SAN) or cloud storage settings. Stored in fixed-sized blocks, files are more easily accessed for quick or frequent edits. While more complex and costly, data stored in such a system is easily accessed without compromising OS performance.

What are blocks?

Chunks of data are called blocks and each block is created by sectioning data off by specific length. SANs give these blocks unique identifiers as markers to aid in the retrieval process. Because of the identifiers on each block of data, the data can live anywhere in the SAN; this enables the SAN to store the data in any random place, but it typically does so wherever is most efficient.


What is a SAN?

Storage area networks (SANs) provide access to data stored in block-level format. They divide the blocks into separate tiers, partitioning and formatting these as all-flash storage, which enables a high throughput and low latency. In addition, they isolate failures that may occur, protecting data and ensuring efficiency throughout the system.

How is block storage used?

Block storage systems are used to optimise tasks and workloads that require minimal delay and are network-based. The data blocks are configured to form volumes and each volume behaves as a hard drive. Volumes are managed and used by the storage administrator to complete tasks and analysis. Virtual machines, filing systems, critical applications and databases are all typical uses of block storage.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of block storage?

With the benefits that block storage offers, such as its efficiency and high-performance capabilities, it is a suitable option for many enterprise environments. Highly scalable block storage is able to grow as organisations need more storage without compromising performance.

This storage format allows files to be updated and modified efficiently. When a file needs to be changed, the system can simply change the exact block without having to rewrite the entire file. This is not an option with other data storage structures. Block storage also performs with low latency due to the unique identifiers within the block structure.

However, because block storage systems are connected to one specific server, the ability to simultaneously connect to other servers is significantly limited. Additional software is required to establish these connections, which hinders overall performance. Organisations that need multi-level connections typically do not use block storage because of this drawback.

Organisations need to have sufficient budget for traditional block storage systems, as the costs associated with both hiring professional managers for maintenance of the system and the investment required for the initial build-out can be significant. By contrast, modern block storage as-a-service offerings enable enterprises to flexibly leverage the power of block storage without the upfront capital costs or the need for specialist IT personnel.

File storage vs block storage vs object storage

File storage

File storage utilises a graded system and is generally more user-friendly than block storage. The process of retrieving files in a file storage system is as simple as accessing the user interface and searching based on the name of the file, URL or its location within a folder. With block storage, the SAN needs to piece together the blocks of data to retrieve the file. 


Block storage

Block storage offers great flexibility and high performance. This sets the system apart from file storage systems. However, block storage is the most expensive and workload-heavy storage system.

Object storage

Object storage is the most scalable and affordable storage option. Object storage systems can also be the most reliable and efficient of the three data storage types. However, in an object storage system, it is impossible to make edits to a file. Files must be completely rewritten if any changes need to be made, whereas file storage allows for constant edits and updates.


Block storage use cases

As profit margins within the service industry are consistently shrinking, service providers must innovate to find greater efficiency in workflow and return. One way of accomplishing this objective is by optimising storage capacity and requirements. Block storage can be used to help organisations that need file editing capabilities with quick and reliable access to their data.

In order to run most mission-critical applications such as SAP and Oracle, or with workloads that include trading, e-commerce, customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation, an organisation must utilise block storage systems within their infrastructure. Running such mission-critical applications demands quick response times. In these situations, enterprises prefer this type of storage solution as it provides efficiency, high-performance capacity and low latency.

Some organisations use block storage as a foundation beneath object and file storage to accommodate rapid expansion and varying data storage needs. It provides an underlying storage solution that, when utilised jointly with object and file storage, simplifies data structure and automatically assigns workloads to the necessary system for each given task.

Certain applications call for server-side processing in which processing requests require user authentication and internal page navigation that can only be accomplished via block storage systems. For instance, running an application such as Java requires this system. This allows organisations to increase their internal security.

Hypervisors utilise block storage within virtual machines (VMs) because their structure allows for distribution across several machines. When organisations use a hypervisor and block storage structure in their virtual machines, VMs can achieve higher speeds, lower latency and greater processing power.


HPE and block storage

HPE offers advanced block storage solutions to help you realise the full potential of your data, wherever it lives, with a seamless cloud experience for data and data infrastructure from edge to cloud.

HPE GreenLake for Block Storage is the first block storage as a service to deliver self-service agility and a built-in 100% availability guarantee for mission-critical apps. The solution enables line of business and app admins to leverage instant, attribute-based quoting and rapid ordering – and then self-provision storage without domain expertise. HPE InfoSight, the industry-leading AIOps for infrastructure, ensures apps are always on and always fast.

HPE Alletra is cloud-native data infrastructure powered by the HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform. Together, they provide a cloud operating and consumption experience wherever data lives. Built for every app, from traditional to modern, HPE Alletra spans workload-optimised systems to deliver architectural flexibility without the complexity of traditional storage management. By mobilising data across clouds, HPE Alletra unleashes the true potential of your hybrid cloud.

The HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform enables organisations to accelerate data-driven modernisation from edge to cloud with a cloud operational experience that eliminates complexity and silos. Enterprises can leverage a seamless cloud experience that brings together the agility of cloud operations, consumption-based data services and the freedom to run any app without compromise. Stop managing infrastructure and start accessing and utilising it to meet any SLA, as a service and on demand, via modular storage configurations offered in cost-optimised, balanced and performance options.