Hammering down data storage using nails

Updated 9.12.12

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” Abraham Maslow

I will let you all in on a secret. I started researching data storage with the aim of providing an overview of data storage but the more I researched, the more confused I became. The forerunners to today’s data storage such as primary and secondary storage still exist and then we have new technologies, such as Solid State Disk (SSD) drives becoming increasingly popular. In the end, I returned to my own experiences in data storage and then it suddenly dawned on me. The reason, I was writing this article was that unlike the early days of IT, when all I used to do was to have servers backed up on tapes and carry them in the boot of my car (Yes, in those days that was the Disaster Recovery strategy). Data storage is now a behemoth.

Storage can even in this day and age be added cost effectively. Another article that highlighted the nine data storage companies to watch shows innovative ways that are being utilised by newer entrants to the market.

The title of this blog reflects the reality. I have yet to come across any organisation who holds an IT induction for employees (even that is quite rare) that includes, a best practice session on how users can administrate their own data well enough to contribute towards the data cost effectiveness, return on investment (ROI), Total cost of ownership (TCO), energy and carbon reduction of an organisation’s data centre and highlights the data storage policy (if one exists, it isn’t often enforced either). Well, herein lies the problem. Users don’t know how to control, avoid duplication or when to delete data that is no longer required. It is then taken for granted that their data has a right to reside on the network as long free space exists within that network drive, for example.

The irony is that this is not where it all stops. Email is often used as a filing system, even when user mailboxes are given quotas. I have even witnessed organisations where quotas are enforced but archiving of data on user system hard disks encouraged, just to adhere to minimising disk usage on network storage (Obviously, no data security issues). This is even before we start discussing technologies such as SharePoint. Now, this is where it all starts falling apart, as until now users, for example, would have been given quotas on file/email but as soon as organisation’s start implementing technologies such as SharePoint, all quotas suddenly seem to vanish, almost by magic, as if they were not really required on SharePoint. Users suddenly realise that hang on, let’s just move our file estate to SharePoint. Data storage performance bottlenecks can add to these issues as well. So, in essence, what we have is a scenario where files may be duplicated many times over. Good Data storage solutions take account of these scenarios and implement solutions that address all this duplication and if implemented correctly, will save an organisation considerable finances while contributing towards their green credentials.

In summary, a data storage solution should look at an organisation’s entire data estate including file servers and document libraries. If that is not the case, in essence, all they are doing is using a hammer to drive a nail through data storage while ignoring the reasons for driving the nail through. Gartner has recently (2010) released a Magic Quadrant for storage resource management and SAN management software, and I highly recommend that it should be read prior to embarking on a storage project.

For those of us, embarking on choosing data storage solutions, I will take the opportunity to provide a quick primer on the key technologies and methodologies involved, please click on the links below, as I feel that if these technologies, are to be implemented, these terms need to be understood (Deliberately not detailing the technologies):

DAS, NAS, Fibre Channel, ISCSI, HyperSCSI, AOE, Infiniband, VTL, de duplication

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About mubbisherahmed
I am passionate about IT and its ability to deliver cost effective, value for money solutions that can enhance performance and in many cases provide competitive advantage by using a range of solutions and approaches in innovative ways.

8 Responses to Hammering down data storage using nails

  1. Pingback: Hammering down data storage using nails « Media Management and Licensing

  2. mubbisherahmed says:

    Lawrence Wood Senior Consultant at Schlumberger SIS, who is a member of one of my social media groups said:

    I don’t think data storage is biggest problem organisations face, it is more how they manage their data. Indeed the volume of data is growing at an almost alarming rate, but if handled and governed correctly, it need not be a headache as some think.
    To discuss that topic, we would be moving into the realms of Information Management, so I’ll save that for another day 🙂

    I replied:

    I completely agree, that is what organisations need to do. Some as you said are already addressing this problem and others will follow. The quicker, the better for all concerned.
    Ahh, information management…..
    With your permission, I’ll include your comments on my blog. Thanks.

  3. Dan Giles says:

    First, I agree with Lawrence, but let me go one step further. I do not believe that CIOs/CTOs should be concerned about specific technologies; at least, not up front. Rather, they should be spear-heading the processes required for information management. Start with a data discovery: exactly what do I have? What are my business and legal/regulatory requirements for this data? From that, you figure out how to handle it all. Once this is in place, you look to vendors and technologies that will satisfy YOUR needs.

    True, data storage growth can be anywhere from 50% to 200% a year, but this is overall storage growth. If you looked at your active (i.e. operational) storage, you would find that growth in this area is much, much smaller. If your information management solution encompassed proper archiving tools and procedures, most problems due to overwhelming storage growth would disappear!

  4. mubbisherahmed says:

    Valued comments and your feedback and Lawrence’s has helped me gain a better understanding of this area of technology, so appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

  5. We come across these issues on a daily basis and found your thoughts constructive and insightful. The tape back up and car trunk are still in use today and for the most part something that has come from habit for the user. If something works why mess with it. The why is the issue.
    With the examples noted and the number of resources available to business there are many options that the typical user finds some what overwhelming. To offer solutions that provide better service and solution is the goal, but leading the user to the well can sometimes be difficult.
    My question would be what is the one factor that makes the switch to offsite backup most desirable for a small to medium size business?

  6. mubbisherahmed says:

    Firstly, thanks for your thoughts and for finding the article useful. Secondly, in my opinion if as you said, the boot backup system works, then that’s fine. The one factor that should neccessitate offsite backup (Via live real time link/Internet based etc) is when you are uncomfortable with the though that if the server room went up in smoke, right now, I can’t recover mission critical data of the business. At the end of the day, only the business knows the true value of their data, so the cost/benefit ratio and argument needs to be decided by the business.

  7. Dan Giles says:

    Altenburg:

    Ok, your tape/truck (boot) backup ‘works’, but does it? Have you actually restored a system using this method? What happens if you get rear-ended? What happens if someone needs the tapes and you’re not around? The more manual intervention in a process, the more likelyhood of errors.

    So, why electronic vaulting? Reduced TCO and a much better insurance policy. Never talk technology to a business user: talk money and risk — THAT they understand!

  8. mubbisherahmed says:

    Dan, thanks for chipping in. Enjoyed your valid comments.

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