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Prediction: one day you will reduce total storage

You'll run out of space...

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I have sometimes asked what some see as a daft question concerning storage: “When is someone going to come up with a solution that will completely stop storage growth rather than just slowing it down a little?” Usually, the response is a deafening silence. But I predict: one day your organisation WILL reduce its total storage.

For some years the growth has been masked and contained by hardware miniaturisation and capacity hikes, virtualisation to increase disk utilisation and so on. These measures have served to put off the day when enterprises are forced to face up to the need to properly identify the information they hold that is of no value to the organisation and so remove it - just in order to contain storage capacity at manageable levels.

But why wait for the eleventh hour? The goal should already be to identify and keep only the information of value to the company. Yet hard-pressed storage managers are often too busy fighting fires to take time out to consider how to go about analysing what information they are holding in order to identify what they can cull.

Stop-gaps only put off the evil day

For now the scenario is: data volumes and storage costs increase, as does the time taken to search for and extract valuable information. This is exacerbated by an increasing requirement for compliance, with new regulations leading to otherwise valueless information needing to be retained. Adding faster and/or higher capacity storage hardware may drag performance back up, but only for a while.

As well as longer search times, there are longer backup times. Continuous data protection (CDP) has recently gained favour partly because it can obviate the need for a storage backup window by effectively spreading the backup throughout the day. Without CDP some companies were staring at the prospect of daily backups taking more than the time available to complete them. Yet CDP does not reduce the total daily workload nor the growing storage requirement.

The reliance on being able to hive off most information to off-line tape libraries has also been undermined by more information needing to be available longer for rapid retrieval, with compliance a major reason. In any case, even tape libraries need security and some environmental control to protect the media and the information it contains; that too has a cost.

The biggest increase in storage is now identified as coming from e-mails, instant messaging and the like. One recent estimate is that 75 per cent of a company's intellectual property is now held within e-mails; most major litigation in the US now involves disclosure of e-mails as evidence.

Increasingly sophisticated e-mail and messaging storage management systems have managed to hold back the increase in total storage e-mail should cause - by, for instance, holding each message and its attachments once only, with multiple recipients just receiving a tag that links back. Data compression has also helped reduce disk space at the expense of some performance.

Nevertheless, I keep returning to the fact that the total storage pool keeps growing. So, in general, does the time to retrieve any information of value to the organisation. Add more equipment and you add to the running costs, for powering the equipment and cooling the surrounding data centre or office. An increasingly common problem is data centres approaching maximum capacity - meaning they will hit a literal brick wall short of a hugely expensive and disruptive relocation to bigger premises.

Oh and I should mention - though it is still way down most companies' priority lists - the increasing power generation burns up fossil fuel and so increases atmospheric CO2.

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