Software-Defined Active Archive Storage

Active archive is a relatively recent concept, promoted since a decade ago, with several real commercial products available. In a nutshell, an active archive solution offers users and applications easy access to archive data via a file interface that is often “mounted” on the user system or application server. It provides users access to archive data, much like other product systems that access data via a file system, and doesn’t change the user experience between production and archive systems. It exists in many different flavors of such approaches, some still based on tape with intelligent front-ends, and some others that extend object storage solutions with file interfaces via gateway or native implementation.

The Business Value of Combining Disk and Tape for Active Archive

A recently published research paper from analyst group ESG reported that more than 82% of tape-using respondents surveyed anticipate increasing or maintaining their organization’s use of tape technology for long term data retention.  So why does tape remain so popular for archive in general and active archive in particular? The answer lies in the on-going business value of the technology.

Is the Time Right for an Active Archive?

In an analog world, an archive is where information is put to rest. It is put on the shelf and there it stays, gathering dust. But in a digital world, all information should be online and accessible to satisfy both the immediate and long-term needs. This is particularly important as more and more companies are seeking to extract added value from their legacy data, whether by monetizing it through repurposing to other uses or by gaining business intelligence from Big Data analytics. 

Clean or dirty, is that really the question?

I recently read “Clicking Clean, How Companies are Creating the Green Internet,” a very interesting report by Greenpeace published this past April. The report reviews the “clean” vs. “dirty” power usage by many of the Internet giants like Amazon, Google, Apple, eBay and others to run their vast data centers. The report shows what percentage of their power is from clean sources, such as solar or wind, vs. what percentage is from dirty sources like coal, gas or nuclear fired power plants. The report rates each company with grades ranging from “A” to “F” based on their renewable energy efforts.

But regardless of the type of energy used by these company’s data centers, an even bigger question might be: how do they reduce their energy consumption in the first place?

Why Copies of Data on Disk Alone Is Not a Good Active Archive Strategy

The father of theoretical computer science, Alan Turing, once said, “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.” The same sentiment holds true in enterprise IT planning, considering that the average company keeps data for 15 years and some data requires indefinite retention. Unstructured data now represents the majority of data being stored, and this is exacerbated by the fact that more than 70% of disk capacity is mis-used[1]. So how do storage managers meet these challenges with decreasing annual budgets and the cost of storage representing between 33 – 70% of every dollar spent on IT?

Permanent Active Archives and the Cloud

In many industries archived data is considered to be the lifeblood of an organization. Broadcast and media, life sciences, oil and gas exploration, research institutes all create data that must be archived indefinitely. The information they create has significant value to each organization and so preserving that data in an active permanent archive environment makes good sense.

Storing archive data in the cloud, either using private or public cloud, is becoming a popular choice, particularly for long-term archives. Private cloud providers typically use an object storage solution that offers self-managing, self-healing technology, automatically recreating data on new media, should copies degrade. They continue to work as long as you keep adding new media to the storage pool. Public clouds typically offer similar functionality. They remove the responsibility for adding more media to a third party. As long as the user pays their monthly bill, data will be preserved forever.

It is a Wrap! NAB is Over but the Lessons Continue to Resonate

I recently spoke to a colleague who is a 20+ year veteran of attending the NAB Show. He has been through the ups and downs of the industry and show, and he told me that this year, he felt an energy at NAB that he has not felt in some time – the aisles were full with visitors coming to the booth more energetic than ever. I am a bit of a “veteran” myself, attending my first year in 1998. I appreciated my colleague’s feelings and would agree with him too, that the crowd felt alive. At this year’s show, the one common theme on everyone’s mind was archiving – what’s the best way to manage, archive and use data generated by media and entertainment.

Excitement Around Storage

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is the world's largest electronic media show covering filmed entertainment and the development, management and delivery of content across all mediums. This conference is also the 3rd largest annual conference held in Las Vegas (behind The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and World of Concrete).

This year, attendance jumped to 96,000 attendees—comparable to a small city’s entire population. And what an exciting event this turned out to be!

Tape Ensures Future of Active Archives

I was speaking with a customer recently about his storage environment and how he was incorporating the principles of active archiving. We were discussing the feature/benefits of active archiving and what elements actually make up an active archive and he asked me the following question: “Tape does not have to be part of an active archive, right?” I replied “By definition, no it does not…” and then came the “but.” 

Moving Towards a Converged Data Storage Platform

For almost a decade, the amount of data stored by companies, governments, universities and research labs has been escalating at an impressive rate. This momentum is even greater for Internet related activities. As the amount of data grows, it becomes increasingly interesting for strategic data mining. Company strategists, marketing and business development disciplines, intelligence and fraud detection agencies, and academic researchers seek to leverage stored data. They are mining it for information that might provide insight into social and cultural patterns, inform business decisions, or even catch fraudsters and terrorists.