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Taneja Blog / Data Protection/Management

Enter Primary Storage Optimization

We have seen the onslaught of storage optimization technologies applied to secondary storage, i.e. backup/restore, archiving and disaster recovery, in the past six years. We call these Secondary Storage Optimization (SSO) technologies. The uptake of these technologies has been dramatic and we have seen paradigm-shifting influences in IT shops that have implemented these technologies. Today, backup processes are quicker and more reliable and restores from disk are almost guaranteed to work thanks to Secondary Storage Optimization technologies. IT is already keeping months of backups on disk and replicating deduplicated data to their DR site, using disk-to-disk replication. The role of tape is being dramatically re-defined in front of our eyes, but in the grand scheme of things we are still in the very early stages of data protection reform. It is hard to break thirty years of bad habits. Most IT shops, even the most advanced ones, are still 10-15% transformed in terms of using disk-based backup/restore solutions, especially with integrated data deduplication. Most are bringing additional application servers and data under the protection of disk-based solutions. The path is reasonably well defined by now and, in spite of the worldwide economic woes (or perhaps because of it), we see companies bringing more and more data under disk-based protection. As much as 40% of the companies that purchased these solutions in the past five years have added disk-to-disk replication already. That is a stunning statistic and speaks for the power of these solutions.

Enter Primary Storage Optimization. This is a relatively new area of endeavor for the industry. The thesis is “why not reduce storage requirements on primary storage, especially since it is the most expensive?” The idea has serious merit and all reduction benefits can theoretically be carried on to the secondary side, for a greater cumulative effect.

But wait just a minute. The rules for primary storage are very different. Applications are interacting with this data and application performance must not be impacted or IT would not buy it. This has led to the development of Primary Storage Optimization (PSO) technologies that work in a post-process method. That means data is shrunken in the background so application performance is not impacted. Some vendors have devised in-line products that can shrink data while it goes through the PSO appliance. Most work so far in the industry seems to be focused on file storage.

Technologies applied to PSO thus far have been unique, relative to SSO technologies. This was self-intuitive in that the problem being solved is different. Backups have a ton of duplicated data simply due to the way most backup software works. Extracting that duplication is different than extracting duplication from a primary data stream. At least so far we see vendors coming out with technologies that are developed from ground up to be for Primary Storage Optimization.

But even that is about to change. Several SSO vendors seem to have found a way to use the same technology in a different way to solve the PSO problem. While it is too early to call this, clearly there are benefits to having the same battle-tested technology applied to a new problem, assuming the efficiencies remain the same. We believe PSO is the next frontier in storage optimization. The activity under the covers in this area is extreme, just as it was six years ago for SSO technologies.

Our recommendation to IT is simple: As you implement SSO technologies and bring more and more data under disk protection keep an eye out for PSO technologies, especially those that will be synergistic with your SSO technology. The benefits of SSO are clear by now. We believe the benefits of PSO will be equally compelling. But it is the combination of the two that we are most excited about. Stay tuned!


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