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Intelligent caching improves storage performance, reduces bandwidth

By Linda Gail Christie

In the old business model, consolidating and managing data in a central data center was extremely critical. Today, that business model is being put to the test, as recent trends place huge demands on networks to deliver data to distant locations. Such trends -- rapid globalization, the Internet explosion, and the proliferation of large multimedia files -- have led some storage industry vendors to propose other models to better manage these demands.

"A more effective model is to optimally distribute, manage, and store data and content at the edges of the network, so information is available in the right places at the right time," said Shridar Subramanian, Director of Internet Marketing for Network Appliance, a company providing specialized products to manage data at the data center and to deliver content to the edges of the network. "Today, the trend is toward storing frequently used Intranet data close to the user, simultaneously reducing bandwidth costs and improving end-user response times."

In fact, adding bandwidth usually does not eliminate bottlenecks. "Congestion on the origin server and other network infrastructure contributes to the latency of transporting objects over long distances, so local cache servers can significantly improve access times," Subramanian said. "And storing popular content close to the user (which is what caches do) is much cheaper than buying extra bandwidth to repeatedly fetch that content."

According to Subramanian, intelligent software lets you set up policies for distributing content. For example, such policies would allow you to push only those files that have been changed since the last time they were distributed at times when bandwidth demands are low. Other benefits noted by vendors of plug-and-play cache appliances is the claim that they can be installed in minutes, dramatically improving storage manageability.

"Imagine the scale of efficiencies you get by caching multimedia distance learning programs at remote field offices rather than having to stream them over the network during peak business hours," Subramanian said.

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About the author: Storage management tips are written by Linda Gail Christie, a contributing editor based in Tulsa, Okla.

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