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Taneja Blog / Data Protection/Management

Pulling One out of the Hat

Inertia is a fact of corporate life. If you're responsible for figuring out what you're going to spend your IT budget on in the next 12 to 18 months, it's likely that a very high percentage of your spend will be on projects that you were spending money on last year. When trying to find places to cut, many people think first about new projects and initiatives. But another great place to look are budgets that get a large relative percentage of your overall spend. And if you're like most enterprises in this era of exploding data growth and increasing retention requirements, your primary storage budget probably fits that definition.

If the corporate stars have aligned and everyone is already in agreement that you're going to spend "x" on primary storage this year, here's something to consider. The business objective is to meet the enterprise's requirements for primary storage capacity, along with the infrastructure requirements that go along with that (data protection, DR, security, etc.). As long as you meet that requirement within the budget, you may have some flexibility in whether you spend that on technology that meets the strict definition of "primary storage" as long as you meet the business requirement. It's a fact that for most enterprises, at least 70% of the data sitting in primary storage infrastructure today is rarely if ever accessed. But it's there on the off-chance that you might need it, and it hasn't gotten to the point that you're so sure you'll never need it that you've migrated it to some sort of tape archive. All that data is driving a lot of management overhead for you for performance optimization, redundancy, backup, etc.

More and more vendors have figured this out, and are offering what we at Taneja Group call "active archival storage". Basically, these are very scalable, disk-based platforms, generally accessible through industry standard interfaces such as NFS and CIFS, that leverage technologies like SATA and storage capacity optimization (file level single instancing, data de-duplication, compression, etc.) to store lots of data very cheaply. Permabit might have been one of the first to enter this game, but they've been joined by other vendors, small and large, and you can now deploy this capability either as a product or as a service (Iron Mountain recently announced a cloud-based archiving solution). Here's the thinking: you've already decided you need x TB of new primary storage this year (fill in your requirement) and that's going to cost y dollars (fill in your cost). Instead of buying more primary storage, take that y dollars and buy an active archiving platform (or start up one of the cloud-based services) and move the 70% or more of your stale "primary" data into it. That has several impacts:

  1. now you need a lot less primary storage (and probably won't need to buy any more this year after you've freed up 70% of your existing primary storage capacity)
  2. now you're backing up a lot less primary storage, so backups take a lot less time
  3. now you're spending a lot less to store your data, since the new average $/GB is a blend between the $20/GB or more you're paying for primary and the $1/GB or less you'll be paying for this active archiving platform (think how much more active archive storage that $20/GB will buy)
  4. the data is still online so end users can transparently access it, and because it's online it's now searchable for e-discovery purposes, a fact which we've seen save hundreds of thousands of dollars (relative to tape-based discovery) in just one year for large enterprises that deal with multiple lawsuits concurrently (which unfortunately is most of the Fortune 2000)

It's not all peaches and cream, though, since you'll have to manage another platform, which may or may not mean introducing a new vendor into your shop. But you can do this without asking for any additional budget and you'll be easing the backup burden while at the same time decreasing e-discovery costs in a big way, not to mention making it faster and easier. Data migration doesn't need to be done up front, you can just let the platform manage that over time according to policies you establish. If you're going to buy one of these platforms, though, you'll need sufficient scale, say around 80-100TB of primary storage with your data growing at a good clip, to cost justify it using the above example. Smaller companies may consider cloud-based offerings which will let you in for under 1TB.

Long term, most medium to large enterprises will be using an online secondary storage tier. Tape just can't meet evolving archive requirements, especially where e-discovery is a concern. With the economy the way it is these days, this is something to at least think about this year.

  • Premiered: 02/24/09
  • Author: Taneja Group
Topic(s): Active Archive



Enterprises call this: “tier 2/3”, “archive”, “active archive”, “value tier”, etc. Regardless of what they call it the objective is to achieve massive storage cost savings by reducing primary and backup investment.

We see a growing number of IT leaders resisting the temptation of Super Sizing primary storage. Often the move results in 60-90 day payback!

By Tom Cook on 02/25/09


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