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Storage arrays are getting too clever for their own good, and users may need to hack into them to get through the layers of obscuring software, according to storage guru Jon Toigo, speaking at Storage Networking World in Frankfurt.

The problem, he said, lies in virtualisation, which he argued "produces unpredictable results - it masks the problem, it doesn't fix it".

He added that creating virtual pools of storage across disk arrays from different manufacturers will bring problems because the arrays will have different data paths. "You need visibility into the array and understanding of its performance characteristics," he said.

In response, most storage vendors seem as scathing of Toigo's cheerful but relentless brand of iconoclasm as he is of them. Their array firmware is about ease of use and efficiency, they argue.

But this is just one example of the storage industry letting IT users walk up dead-ends, Toigo said. He also gave storage consolidation a good kicking, pointing out that there's a big problem with something which claims to simplify matters and save money, but then requires you to add another layer of technology - WAFS - to bring access speeds back to where they had been before you consolidated.

"In nature, it's diversity not consolidation that ensures a species' survival," he added. "Consolidation also violates the 80/20 rule of networks - that 80 per cent of traffic stays on the LAN and doesn't need to go over the WAN - and invites choke-points."

And he is scathing of most current approaches to archiving and ILM, pointing out that most file systems are very poorly designed for modern needs, as they tell you nothing about the content or value of the information inside.

"Over time, your archive will become like your kitchen junk drawer, and they'll overflow," he said.

Fortunately, he also has advice for the future. Companies need to kick off a data classification project, he said, then analyse usage and access patterns and locate the key business processes.

"Start keeping a journal of downtime, how long it was, what the root cause was - document everything," he added.

And he said companies need to get working on strategies and technology for coherent deletion, so that once the retention period for data is over, every copy of it is deleted. That's both to satisfy data protection laws and remove potential sources of embarrassment should enemies use court orders to go fishing in your filing. ®

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

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