Over the past few years the move companies have been making from direct-attached storage to storage area networks has allowed them to consolidate tremendous amounts of data onto very reliable network-based storage arrays.
Consolidating data through storage networking has enabled companies to reap many cost saving benefits from its efforts. The availability of vast amounts of consolidated storage has brought about a new trend in forward thinking IT departments. People now want to mine all the captured data that resides in corporate SANs. They also want to find out what TYPES of data they are storing. Questions like "Hey, why do we suddenly require so much more storage? Are we becoming the storage mechanism for our employees MP3 files"? Everyone wants to determine if they can eliminate stale, useless and non-essential data. They also want to try and capture information about the content of all that data so they can make better business decisions about where that data should be stored. In order to store information more efficiently, these are the questions you should ask yourself about the data being stored:
- What data is frequently accessed?
- What data is stale and is a good candidate to be moved to archive type storage?
- Are there hidden gold nuggets of customer information that can be gleaned from the content of my files to help drive new business?
- What data types should be stored on expensive high-end storage and which on tape or cheap disks?
- What are the performance metrics for which data type?
- When was everything last backed up?
- Do I need to actually back everything up or can I get rid of a lot of stale data?
New technologies and tools are becoming available to help you gather useful information about your data and can help you manage your storage more efficiently. The SNIA is currently working on the mechanics of using "object-based" storage methods where metadata about the data you store will allow you to manage that data better. Let's face it, data has a lifecycle and the older it gets, the less frequently it is accessed.
Wouldn't it be nice if very soon, as the data you store gets older and less accessed it can be dynamically and automatically migrated to different tiers of storage devices based on the policies you create? Wouldn't it also be nice to never have to worry about government regulations regarding your data since the intelligent SAN policies you create would automatically take care of migrating that data to "WORM" like storage devices?
That time is coming sooner than you think. Stay tuned for more on this subject in future columns.
Check out Chris Poelker's Ask the Expert category to find out what's happening with SAN backup, data replication, appliance wars and more.
This was first published in February 2003