What's red hot this summer? Common sense:Storage Bin 2.0

Information security, data deduplication and virtualization are booming. But as we finally put some of these common-sense themes into practice, we'll invariably expose the next set of weaknesses we'll have to contend with.

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It took a while, but we finally seem to know what's good for us.


THE IT MARKET has been in a strange place for a long, long time. We've experienced supreme highs and stunning lows, sometimes in the same year. We've seen processors spread from top-secret laboratories to being included in nearly every product on the market. We've watched device capacity move from kilobytes to terabytes and beyond, but it's still never quite enough for all the uses we humans can think of. We've seen the rise of the Internet as a technology enabler and the embarrassing fall of the Internet as a modern-day gold rush. We lost our common sense for a while, but we seem to be getting it back.

At this point, we know the Internet's true function: to connect everyone to everything. It took 50 years, but the primary requirement for realizing the ultimate promise of commercial computing technologies has occurred, and it's the Internet. It lets us do truly astounding things, but it's also become a Pandora's box.

When we opened the door to the future by leveraging Internet technologies, we exposed all of the areas of commercial computing that--deep down--we always knew were problems. Today, the IT market is booming in areas that focus on solving the core problems we've always had, but that are now magnified because of the Internet. There are no longer any secrets. Every mistake can and will be exposed, and the industry is finally spending time trying to keep that from happening.

So what's hot? Common sense tells us that information security should be important. Whether legislated, mandated or simply the result of good old-fashioned common sense, we know we should do a good job of protecting information. Privacy breaches in the United States have become a daily occurrence and we're now hearing about it happening all over the world. Is it a new phenomenon? Of course not. But these breaches might have been kept under cover a few years ago. It's obvious that security--encryption, access control and all the rest--will continue to be red-hot areas for the foreseeable future.

Data deduplication is another red-hot topic. It's become a popular practice for data protection, but it'll become even more popular and valuable as it moves to where data is created. If you remove all of the duplicate data at creation, you back up less, replicate less, migrate less, store less and search less. Data dedupe should also expose processes designed for use cases that no longer apply, which can cause further problems. Why do we back up copies of non-changing data over and over again? Sometimes fixing the simplest things gives us the greatest return.

Virtualization has finally attained universal popularity. The technology enables two things: It allows us to get far better utilization out of our physical assets, and it lets all of the functions and components that exist below the virtual layer be manipulated or changed without affecting things above that layer. It's only common sense that we would want to get the most we can out of our technology investments. If we could eliminate the negative effects that change or failure has on the physical world, our life in IT would be better.

Now for the bad news. As we finally put some of these common-sense themes into practice, we'll invariably expose the next set of weaknesses we'll have to contend with. The inventors of the Internet didn't foresee VoIP or text messaging, let alone camera phones or YouTube. That's why we never run out of things to do in the IT industry; the problems never get fixed, only moved. It's common sense.

This was first published in July 2008

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