Unified storage is a storage system that's defined as being able to provide storage access at block level and file level. Block level has been traditionally Fibre Channel to a SAN [storage-area network], and now iSCSI adds to that as a method to allow servers and users to access data. Unifying storage brings those two access methods together under one single platform.
Unified storage addresses a couple of issues. One is that it allows a single platform for both file and block access. Traditionally, systems were islands where you had block-level data and you had file-level data, which meant two sets of infrastructure and two skillsets to manage the data. This brought not only challenges, but complexity in the data centre.
It also requires additional data centre resources to accommodate both, whereas with unified storage you have one platform. You have one system; one footprint in the data centre; you can realise power, space and cooling advantages; and it also unifies your management platform. Instead of running two or three different storage systems, you can now essentially run one and it allows the management of those systems to be much easier -- such as being able to report on capacity and other performance indicators. It makes administration a lot easier. Technologically, most of these NAS [network-attached storage] systems came about by NAS vendors adding Fibre Channel or iSCSI block-level targets that allow the unification of block and file access. Unifying those two platforms allows IT to provide the business with a greater level of service.
If you have business requirements that allow both block and file access, you can turn around deploying those resources to the business quickly. It gives IT departments a great deal of flexibility in terms of meeting service-level requirements and that applies to external clients.