Supported Storage Technologies

Basic information on the storage technologies you may come across with when working with UFS Explorer.

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BitLocker

BitLocker is Microsoft’s proprietary full disk encryption feature available in certain editions of Windows starting from Windows Vista as well as in Windows Server 2008 and later. Providing encryption for entire volumes, BitLocker protects the content of a drive by applying an AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption algorithm with a 128-bit or 256-bit key to make it unreadable when the system is offline and prevent unauthorized access. A hardware component BitLocker works in conjunction with is called a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) – a specialized security chip on the motherboard installed in most newer computers which stores the BitLocker recovery key.

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APFS encryption

Apple’s APFS file system employed in macOS High Sierra and later has native support for encryption, which makes it possible for data to be encrypted directly at the file system level, instead of wrapping a volume in an additional logical layer using CoreStorage and encrypting it at the block level, as has been done in earlier versions of macOS with HFS+. APFS volumes are encrypted with the help of an AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption algorithm in the XTS mode using a 128-bit key.

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Microsoft data deduplication

Data Deduplication is Microsoft’s storage efficiency improvement feature available since Windows Server 2012. Its purpose is to find and remove duplicate data, allowing the user to store more information in less physical space. If enabled, the deduplication mechanism regularly scans the content of a volume in search for repeated chunks of data, placing only one copy to a file in the Chunkstore folder under System Volume Information and updating file metadata with a pointer to that unique copy referred to as a reparse point. This feature is supported by NTFS and ReFS volumes.

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Service partitions

Some hardware/operating systems automatically create additional partitions on a disk containing service information. Such partitions are required for the system to work correctly and store no user data. Among them are:

  • Swap partition is usually created by Linux and is used to extend RAM for resource-heavy tasks – when memory gets filled up, the storage space from this partition can be allocated to run additional applications.

  • GPT partition stores a copy of information related to the way the drive is partitioned, like where partition start/end and which of them are bootable. Such a partition can be found on drives that use the GPT (GUID Partition Table) partitioning system.

  • Boot partition is a disk partition which keeps special configuration files with code required to boot the operating system or contains reserved space necessary for system boot.

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Apple Core Storage

Core Storage is a format of logical volumes introduced by Apple in macOS 10.7 (Lion) which has been the basis for the FileVault 2 and Fusion Drive technologies up to macOS 10.13 (High Sierra) – in case either of these features is enabled, a Core Storage volume is created by default.

Serving as a layer been the disk partitioning scheme and the HFS+ file system, it basically combines one or several physical volumes (actual storage devices) into a logical volume group, which can contain one or more logical volumes. However, unlike traditional LVMs, Core Storage doesn’t support thin provisioning, dynamic volume expansion or redundancy, and its use is rather limited to the implementation of the full-disk encryption and “hybrid” storage concepts in Mac.

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LUKS encryption

Linux Unified Key Setup or LUKS is a standard used by Linux and other platforms to implement full-disk encryption on various block devices. Relying on the device mapper subsystem and the dm-crypt module of the kernel, LUKS supports a variety of encryption methods, like AES, BlowFish, TwoFish and many others, which can be applied in different chaining modes. The format offers the possibility to create multiple keys for access to the encrypted data and allows manipulating these keys.

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LVM with thin provisioning

LVM stands for Logical Volume Manager and is a Linux storage management technology which provides more administration flexibility in comparison to the traditional method of disk partitioning. Utilizing the device mapper framework, LVM combines existing storage devices into logical groups, which act as pools of storage space used to dynamically allocate logical units as needed. LVM offers a wide variety of advanced features, among which are striping, mirroring, snapshots and Thin Provisioning.

Thin Provisioning serves for cost-efficient allocation of storage space, allowing administrators to assign logical volumes more storage capacity than actually exists in the system. Each thin provisioned logical volume is bound to a storage pool of free space referred to a thin pool and is given a virtual size which can be as large as the whole pool itself. Unlike standard logical volumes, which reserve storage blocks upon creation, blocks in thin volumes are allocated as they are written.

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HP EVA

The HP EVA (Enterprise Virtual Array) is a family of server storage systems released by Hewlett-Packard for mid-range and enterprise customers since 2002. EVA storage units rely on a special technology called Vraid. From 8 to 240 hard drives are combined into a disk group within which a Vdisk is created and is striped across all the drives in the group. Four levels of redundancy are available for each Vdisk: Vraid 0 (data striping), Vraid 1 (data mirroring), Vraid 5 (data striping with single parity), Vraid 6 (data striping with double parity). A single disk group can be used for multiple Vdisks which may have the same or different Vraid levels.

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HP LeftHand

HP LeftHand (StoreVirtual) is a family of SAN storage solutions for Windows and Linux server virtualization environments provided by Hewlett-Packard. LeftHand storage units make use of a specific storage technology called Network RAID. Network RAID is similar to the traditional RAID but is applied across the network on network attached storage devices, which can be physical or virtual SAN appliances. The technology offers several levels of data protection, which define how many copies of data blocks are written across the network on these devices: NR0 (data striping), NR10 (two-way data mirroring and data striping) NR10+1 (three-way data mirroring and data striping) NR10+2 (four-way data mirroring and data striping). The NR5 and NR6 options are also available (similar to RAID 5 and RAID 6), but they are very rarely used. Multiple volumes with different NetworkRAID levels can co-exist on one LeftHand cluster.

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SANsymphony

SANsymphony is software-defined storage platform aimed at enterprise consumers shipped by DataCore since 2000. This storage virtualization solution allows pooling resources of various storage devices connected via fiber channel, iSCSI or directly and creating virtual volumes from this combined pool. A single virtual volume can include several physical disks or consume a portion of a single disk. Such virtual volumes can be mirrored synchronously or asynchronously to ensure data protection.

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Microsoft Storage Spaces

Storage Spaces is a storage virtualization feature available in Windows 8/8.1/10 and Windows Server 2012/2012 R2/2016 which provides an easy way to create software-defined storage by grouping a number of physical drives into a single storage pool and use its capacity to create virtual disks called storage spaces. A storage space can be thin or thick, appears to Windows as a regular disk and can hold one or more logical volumes. One of the four resiliency types are available for each storage space: simple (no resiliency), two-way mirror (two copies of data are written to different drives), three-way mirror (three copies of data are written to different drives), parity (similar to the traditional RAID 5).

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Drobo

Drobo is a series of multi-disk NAS and DAS devices developed by Drobo Inc. since 2007. A Drobo unit can feature from 4 up to 12 drive bays, in which drives of different capacities, types and spindle speeds can be inserted. Drobo DAS is normally recognized by the host PC as an ordinary USB drive and is managed by the file system defined by the host computer. A home-oriented Drobo NAS box applies ext3 and is presented to the operating system as network storage with a single volume, in contrast to professional models, which usually give the possibility to split up the storage into several volumes or Logical Unit Numbers (LUNs).

To combine multiple physical disks into single storage and ensure data safety, Drobo utilizes a proprietary RAID-based technology called BeyondRAID. BeyondRAID employs a combination of RAID 1 and RAID 5 to achieve single redundancy and a combination of parity and diagonal parity for double redundancy while the protection algorithm is chosen by BeyondRAID itself on the basis of data availability needs at the given moment. RAID sets are not created over the whole disks but over the regions on them of several tens of megabytes, which are then combined in zones, from which the allocation of file system clusters is carried out.

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Simple ZFS Volume

Zettabyte File System or ZFS is a combination of a file system and logical volume manager originally created by Sun Microsystems for Solaris which is now used in Linux and other UNIX-based operating systems, usually for large-scale storage environments. With ZFS it is possible to pool all available storage devices (local HDDs/SSDs, SANs, shared devices, etc.) which will be managed as a single entity, and expand this pool by adding more disks to a live system for additional capacity. A ZFS volume is simply a ZFS file system created from a ZFS pool. Such volumes can be simple, mirror and RAID-Z. A simple ZFS volume spans across a series of drives in a pool and can be compared to RAID 0 but with file corruption prevention and other benefits of ZFS.

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ZFS RAID-Z

RAID-Z is a fault tolerance option offered by the ZFS file system. A RAID-Z volume is created in a ZFS storage pool consisting of at least three disks. RAID-Z is similar to a software-based RAID 5 and has an analogous data distribution scheme (a stripe set with single distributed parity) but it doesn’t use stripes of a fixed width: each logical block is its own stripe width and is spread across all the devices.

For higher protection RAID-Z2 and RAID-Z3 are available as well, which allow the system to withstand the failure of two or even three disks.

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Component of Btrfs-RAID

Btrfs is a modern Linux file system, which, among other features, offers native RAID support, whose management is much more flexible in comparison to traditional Linux mdadm. Btrfs-RAID doesn’t require any preliminary disk size or count calculations: any number of disks of any size can be attached to the array while the system automatically balances the data across the disks in accordance with the chosen RAID level. The supported RAID levels include RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6 and RAID 10.

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