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Archive federation

One practical solution to bring order to a diverse set of data archives is to leverage federated management software. These applications let you pick the best point solutions for email, databases, content management systems and file servers, but hide the complexity of having multiple archivers behind a unified interface. These are especially appropriate where search, rather than capacity management, is the primary reason for archiving.

Although many archiving platforms today include search and e-discovery features, none can match legal-focused data management tools. Simple Boolean text search can't hold a candle to the concept-clustering and fuzzy-search features in products like Attenex's Patterns, Clearwell's E-Discovery Platform or i365's MetaLincs. Tools like these also boast complex e-discovery features, including review and annotation, that are beyond anything found in the more IT-focused archiving applications.

Some of these tools can be used to search non-archived data as well. Autonomy and OpenText Corp. offer enterprise search platforms that can manage both production and archived data from a single interface and can be integrated into other enterprise applications for complex environments. CommVault even includes backup and remote site replication in its unified archiving and search platform, creating a one-stop data protection and management suite.

Platform game

Many companies are also attempting

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to solve the archive consolidation puzzle from the bottom up, investigating unified storage platforms to retain data. This approach is most appropriate where capacity control, rather than search, is the key requirement, as storage unification can bring many advantages.

Consolidated archiving doesn't have to be a great technical challenge. Although specialized protocols like EMC's Centera API and the Storage Networking Industry Association's new eXtensible Access Method (XAM) specification were developed specifically with archiving in mind, Thomas Savage, senior manager, product marketing data retention at NetApp, points out that "most archiving applications support a variety of storage devices over standard CIFS or NFS." Nearly any storage device can serve as a landing spot for archive data.

But specialized archive platforms like those from EMC, Hitachi, HP and NetApp bring special capabilities for storage of archival data (see "Popular archiving platforms," below). Most offer native support for "objects" rather than files, and can manage these with custom meta data. Some can autonomously enforce retention policies, even securely deleting data once it has "expired." They may also support full-text indexing and search. Although higher-level archiving software will almost certainly duplicate some of the functionality of these devices, their presence at this lowest common layer can make it simpler to configure these features and consistently enforce policy.

Click here for a a sampling of popular archiving platforms.

This was first published in January 2009

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