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Get control of data storage growth before things go haywire

Companies are collecting and hoarding data like never before. Take control of this out-of-control situation with forward-looking data storage and management practices.

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It has all the makings of a spine-tingling, modern day disaster movie. With corporate data growing at the rate of about a gazillion percent per year, companies are drowning in the stuff. And like that great 1958 movie monster, the Blob, much of that binary flotsam is escaping data centers and seeping under doorways and out into the wild where it's forming great lakes of data.

Soon, giant chunks of data break off and create an even more threatening situation -- just like that Delaware-sized iceberg that snapped off Antarctica and is ominously adrift. Data bergs begin to bounce off data centers, spilling social security and credit card numbers, which are scooped up by dark web bottom feeders who sell identities like popcorn at a disaster flick.

Did that send a shiver up your spine?

Data storage growth is a fact

That may be a little over the top, but probably uncomfortably close to home for some of you. Even as the compliance delete-everything, save-everything debate fades into a distant memory, companies seem convinced that there's gold in them thar data points. Hoarding is in, and data deletion simply isn't an option anymore. And if hanging onto everything that naturally finds its way into our data centers isn't enough, we keep coming up with things to collect even more data and cause even more data storage growth -- devices you wear or ones that watch you or track everything you do on the internet.

We're addicted to data, even if we're not sure what to do with it.

I expect some companies are spending so much time collecting, curating and cracking open their customers' data that they no longer have to time to actually produce products to sell.

Data capacity is out of control

Of course, the problem with the data boom is that you have to have some place to put it -- and wherever that is, you also must protect it. Both of those issues mean spending bucks -- big bucks probably -- and committing other resources to the care and feeding of all those zeros and ones.

Under normal circumstances, that is, in the pre-data hoarding era, storing and protecting data was no easy task. I've been covering storage for about 15 years, and I can remember when -- it's really not that long ago -- users would tell me that they just rolled out a brand new array with the jaw-dropping capacity of 50 TB or 100 TB. That's almost a single solid-state drive today, and you're more likely to hear "Thankfully, we only have a few petabytes of storage to manage" than seeing any jaws drop.

Just like that Delaware-sized iceberg that snapped off Antarctica, data is ominously adrift.

Compounding the problem, some data center and business execs border on the blasé about data storage growth and protection. I just saw the results of a survey fielded by Vanson Bourne, a market research outfit, and sponsored by the NTT Group, a security consulting and managed services provider. The eye-catching stat from the survey was that only 40% of the 1,350 respondents felt that the imminent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) would affect their companies. But pretty much any organization that does business in today's global economy will be affected by the GDPR. Not believing so -- and not preparing accordingly -- may put customers' data in jeopardy and cost organizations millions of dollars in fines.

Data management is possible

It's not like there aren't products that can help companies cope with the data deluge. There are plenty of data management apps out there as well as systems that can help limit and manage the amount of data floating around an enterprise. Copy data management (CDM) products, both appliances and software-only implementations, don't cut down on the amount of data pouring into data centers, but they do a good job of keeping that data from proliferating unnecessarily -- and unmanageably -- and limiting data storage growth.

But adoption of CDM has been a sluggish. Actifio -- often credited with creating this product category -- rolled out its first product in 2011 and in the six or so ensuing years, more vendors have joined the CDM fray, including Catalogic, Cohesity, Rubrick and several backup and primary storage vendors. Still, the number of companies using CDM is modest. According to TechTarget Research's most recent Storage Market Landscape survey, only 15% of respondents said they were using a CDM product.

Copy data management adoption

CDM isn't the only stab at managing data better. A few years ago, DataGravity rolled out its innovative line of Discovery arrays for unstructured data that did a whole lot more than just store that data. The system stored the data intelligently so that it could track who created it, who could see it, if the data was copied and so on. That's a lot of valuable information that most arrays don't come close to providing. But, alas, DataGravity couldn't stir up enough interest in its novel approach to data storage growth to survive on its own. After switching from selling appliances to software only, DataGravity sold its intellectual property to data security company HyTrust.

It's too bad DataGravity didn't have more impact because storage systems must get a lot smarter with built-in, transparent data management.

IT typically lurches from challenge to challenge, learning lessons along the way and often coming up with some pretty good solutions. With the current state of data growth, if we don't become more attentive and develop more forward-looking data management processes, the next sight you see may be a big chunk of your company drifting out of your data center.

Next Steps

A three-pronged approach to a data management strategy

Learn how to assess copy data management vendors

A data management strategy for governing data lakes

This was last published in September 2017

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