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In one of my previous blogs, Tape Ensures Future of Active Archives, I wrote about a customer who asked if tape was an essential component of an active archive. The answer is “no,” but if you are faced with increasing data growth and need a cost effective and reliable, long term solution, then the answer is decidedly “yes.” In a typical active archive environment, data migrates by policy from expensive primary storage tiers to a more cost effective tier while maintaining the convenience of online file access to all of the data. Tape is ideal for this application based on its economic benefits, high capacity, low energy consumption, superior error rates and long archival life.
I am not fond of made up terms like “Big Data,” which is used and re-used in all sorts of ways to promote all sorts of products. So, you can imagine how I felt over the summer when I began to see words like “Flape” and “Floud” emerge for the first time. If you haven’t seen these terms before, “Flape” is a combination of flash and tape, while “Floud” is a combination of flash and cloud.
Yuck! I hate the terms… But I do like the concepts behind them.
You have to protect business data. This typically translates to: you have to back it up, and there are hundreds of backup solutions out there. Why then, do so many storage administrators say that managing backup data is their biggest challenge? As data continues to grow, content is lodged in backup cycles, increasing backup windows and spurring the need for more storage and data protection investments. To make matters worse, 50-80% of enterprise data likely won’t be accessed again after it is first created.
The solution? An active archive with built-in data protection
A new paradigm for big media and post-production workflows in a high resolution world
Ever tried standing on your head to give you a new perspective on a problem? It sounds a bit silly but you never know, it might just do the trick. This unorthodox method seems like what a few media & entertainment storage architects have begun doing to help solve their problem of exploding storage due to higher resolution, stereo imagery, and frame rates (4K, 5K, 8K, 3D, 48fps, 60fps). Architects are turning their workflow on its head starting with the last step, first.
Active archive is a relatively recent concept, promoted since a decade ago, with several real commercial products available. In a nutshell, an active archive solution offers users and applications easy access to archive data via a file interface that is often “mounted” on the user system or application server. It provides users access to archive data, much like other product systems that access data via a file system, and doesn’t change the user experience between production and archive systems. It exists in many different flavors of such approaches, some still based on tape with intelligent front-ends, and some others that extend object storage solutions with file interfaces via gateway or native implementation.
A recently published research paper from analyst group ESG reported that more than 82% of tape-using respondents surveyed anticipate increasing or maintaining their organization’s use of tape technology for long term data retention. So why does tape remain so popular for archive in general and active archive in particular? The answer lies in the on-going business value of the technology.
In an analog world, an archive is where information is put to rest. It is put on the shelf and there it stays, gathering dust. But in a digital world, all information should be online and accessible to satisfy both the immediate and long-term needs. This is particularly important as more and more companies are seeking to extract added value from their legacy data, whether by monetizing it through repurposing to other uses or by gaining business intelligence from Big Data analytics.
I recently read “Clicking Clean, How Companies are Creating the Green Internet,” a very interesting report by Greenpeace published this past April. The report reviews the “clean” vs. “dirty” power usage by many of the Internet giants like Amazon, Google, Apple, eBay and others to run their vast data centers. The report shows what percentage of their power is from clean sources, such as solar or wind, vs. what percentage is from dirty sources like coal, gas or nuclear fired power plants. The report rates each company with grades ranging from “A” to “F” based on their renewable energy efforts.
But regardless of the type of energy used by these company’s data centers, an even bigger question might be: how do they reduce their energy consumption in the first place?
The father of theoretical computer science, Alan Turing, once said, “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.” The same sentiment holds true in enterprise IT planning, considering that the average company keeps data for 15 years and some data requires indefinite retention. Unstructured data now represents the majority of data being stored, and this is exacerbated by the fact that more than 70% of disk capacity is mis-used. So how do storage managers meet these challenges with decreasing annual budgets and the cost of storage representing between 33 – 70% of every dollar spent on IT?
In many industries archived data is considered to be the lifeblood of an organization. Broadcast and media, life sciences, oil and gas exploration, research institutes all create data that must be archived indefinitely. The information they create has significant value to each organization and so preserving that data in an active permanent archive environment makes good sense.
Storing archive data in the cloud, either using private or public cloud, is becoming a popular choice, particularly for long-term archives. Private cloud providers typically use an object storage solution that offers self-managing, self-healing technology, automatically recreating data on new media, should copies degrade. They continue to work as long as you keep adding new media to the storage pool. Public clouds typically offer similar functionality. They remove the responsibility for adding more media to a third party. As long as the user pays their monthly bill, data will be preserved forever.