Earlier this month, I was at the NAB show in Las Vegas listening to all the stories of how the folks store their content. I was at the show both as a representative of Quantum and as a member of the Active Archive Alliance, and both roles help me stay current with how companies are addressing their archive storage needs, including some surprising tidbits.
One gentleman I met with - let’s call him Alfredo - is a system architect consultant for small production companies. His primary role is getting production workflow to a “tapeless” process. I have had this “tapeless” discussion many times in the past, not only in the media and entertainment (M&E) industry, but with many corporations. Typically people are trying to move to a tapeless environment where time-to-data or time-to-restore/recovery are key factors. I think we all understand this, and that is why disk-based backup has encroached into a market which was historically dominated by tape.
These conversations often turn to the topic of data retention beyond traditional back-up timeframes. Many companies want to keep their content around for a very long time, but they also want it “quickly” accessible by their user communities because it has near term value. In M&E, this is quite obvious.
In other industries, I have also seen examples of “active” archives. For example, researchers dealing with genomic sequencing data tell me that they need to move the data off of disk quickly after it is generated to make space on the disk for more data. But that data needs to be available for the researchers who will need to work with it periodically during the first 6 to 12 months of its life.
The same scenario exists in other industries where data capture is involved. Data is captured and the users of that data need access during its early life, but because they are generating so much data, they cannot afford to keep it on more expensive storage technologies. These user communities are looking for a good balance between access to data and cost of storage. Examples of these other industries include earth sciences, oil & gas, medical and other imaging applications – and the list goes on to many other areas. Eventually, this data will move to long-term archive. In nearly all cases with the industries mentioned above, their data is extremely valuable or hard (if not impossible) to reproduce, and for that reason they want to keep it forever.
This middle ground often referred to as “active archive” is an area that is ripe for finding the best blend of cost and performance to meet the needs of the customers. Many Alliance members, including Quantum, provide a variety of offerings in this space. We realize that many customers have specific architectures, preferences or needs that dictate a mixture of offerings from a variety of solution providers. By joining the Active Archive Alliance, Quantum can more actively participate in discussions and be advisors on how to integrate the multi-vendor pieces to provide the best solution for each customer.
So back to Alfredo. My big “aha!” from the Alfredo discussion was learning that many of his smaller customers that produce video content are leveraging YouTube as their active archive. I have no idea if there are specific SLAs that YouTube promises, but it is clear that you can post data on YouTube and be pretty confident that it will be there when you need it for the foreseeable future. For many reasons this may not be a great answer for many companies, but I did find it amusing as I have never put YouTube in the bucket of active archive solution providers… perhaps I should?