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Prediction: one day you will reduce total storage

You'll run out of space...

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Hardware producers see money in countering power usage. So, for instance, Pillar Data Systems plans to add ‘sleepy' drives to its Axiom disk arrays in the second half of 2007 - SATA disks that will spin slowly when not in use and so save power. They differ from the massive array of idle disks (MAID) products that close the disks right down, which may save more power (dependent on how long is the gap before reuse) but, according to Pillar, shutting right down and fully powering up impacts on drive durability (which means higher replacement costs). These also do nothing to solve the growing storage requirement.

Information classification and policies are the way ahead

Various information lifecycle management (ILM) initiatives have been introduced over recent years. The broad aim of these has been to try and tackle the information value problem while also reducing storage costs. At best they have helped reduce the amount of information held on the most costly tier one disk storage and thereby improved the speed of retrieving the rest while reducing overall running costs to some extent.

ILM is an overused and often misused term. It is a goal, not a single solution. However, there is one core feature gradually emerging and being built into more and more products. It is: automating the information classification process, which means in practice attaching metadata to each piece of information to tell the system what it is, or contains. This overlaps with the work carried out by content management systems (ECM and ICM).

From this metadata, a storage management system can apply corporate policies captured in a policy engine to automate information movement between tiers of storage - and especially to move data out to off-line storage and ultimately destroy it safely and much more quickly. Only by building up - gradually - to applying such techniques across the enterprise will total storage capacity ultimately be contained.

Some of this work is in its infancy and, so far, there are no information classification or taxonomy standards that any products adhere to. Yet products are moving in this direction. (Bloor's recent paper on ILM provides a full description of the current status of the ILM market, some of the initiatives in progress, and what companies should be doing to get a handle on the information they already have.)

Last week's release of Symantec's Enterprise Vault 7.0 is a case in point. This product, designed to manage e-mail storage - and now covering other information types including instant messaging - includes classification and a policy engine for the first time. Broadly speaking, this approach needs to extend to all types of storage information.

What is often forgotten is that, however much information can be retrieved, there is in any case a limit to a business's capacity to make use of it. The way forward is to tackle head-on the information you have now as well as the new information arriving daily, to hone it down to a slim-line storage pool which only carries data that is absolutely necessary - and making the most valuable information the easiest to retrieve.

Achieving that will variously reduce the costs for power, equipment upgrades, software, management time, maintenance and so on, while also improving performance and the business value of the information.

Common sense says a small investment now is likely to produce a long-term ROI. In any case, sooner or later you will have no choice. Unless you turn the tide and reduce your total storage, your enterprise systems will collapse under the storage burden.

Copyright © 2007, IT-Analysis.com

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