Permabits and Petabytes

December 3, 2008

No Silver Bullet: Archive Challenges

Filed under: Jered Floyd — jeredfloyd @ 5:40 pm

After my post about dirty little secrets a few weeks ago, Joe Martins from Data Mobility Group wrote to point out the real “dirty little secret” about archive systems: even if your archival storage is reliable, it doesn’t mean you can do anything useful with your data once to retrieve it in the distant future.

There’s more to a digital archive than just being able to store and retrieve your bits from media. If your storage system has been designed properly then it will give you your data, but it won’t necessarily give you the information that data represents. For several years I co-chaired the SNIA Long-Term Archive and Compliance Storage Initiative, and this was a problem that we frequently considered. The challenges found when considering how to solve this problem led in part to the development of XAM, the new eXtensible Access Method standard for object-based information storage.

When it comes time to retrieve and process data that was written a long time prior, there are two major challenges — what I like to call physical readability and logical readability. Physical readability means that the archive system is able to retrieve and present the exact bitstream that was originally written, intact, complete, with no errors. Logical readability, on the other hand, means that I am able to extract the same semantic meaning from those bits as when they were originally processed. The first problem is one that can be solved purely by technology; the second one, sadly not. (more…)

November 25, 2008

Head in the Clouds

Filed under: Jered Floyd — jeredfloyd @ 11:19 pm

Some days, I just feel like I’m out of the CTO loop. I see announcements for new “Web 2.0 Cloud Optimized Storage” and my brain gets all foggy trying to see through the new goofy buzzwords and trying to figure out what it’s even for in the first place. Now, if you’ve met me then you know I’m a pretty cynical guy… although I personally prefer the term “pragmatic”. Perhaps I need to go back for some remedial classes in being a public commentator?

I’m talking about EMC’s Atmos, of course, née Maui. Last week EMC broke with a tradition of not announcing new products in economic downturns, and launched a peculiar new storage product that’s neither fish nor fowl. Oh, it’s got the requisite NFS and CIFS interfaces, but those are surely the unloved stepchildren like the Centera Universal Access Gateway was; a way to make you feel more comfortable with the new device but not a full-fledged, first class interface. Instead it’s half content distribution network, half object storage, and all rather weird. (more…)

November 21, 2008

Buying Archive Storage Makes Sense Right Now

Filed under: Jered Floyd — jeredfloyd @ 6:06 pm

Every day the economic news seems to get worse, from Wall Street last month to Detroit now. Enterprises are shrinking their staffs, cutting budgets, and forcing unpaid vacations. December is starting to look like one big month off for business, but data keeps pouring in. What to do?

Last month Tony Pearson at IBM pointed out a silver lining for the financial crisis, the opportunity to stop and evaluate your storage purchase plans. I don’t agree with all of his points, but he’s spot on when he says that now is a great time to compare different vendor equipment.

Like every other area of IT, there’s always risk associated with trying something new instead of continuing on with the status quo. There’s always the chance that a bad decision or a poor project plan can lead to a disaster. The saying used to be, “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM,” and today it’s frequently “nobody ever got fired for buying EMC.” Why not just throw another rack on the Symmetrix? (more…)

November 20, 2008

The Greening of Storage

Filed under: Jered Floyd — jeredfloyd @ 5:29 pm

Energy efficiency is big news these days, and everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. We have a Green Storage Initiative within the SNIA, there’s The Green Grid consortium, and one of these days we may even have useful metrics on which we can compare different products. What’s it all worth?

A few months ago “green storage” was pitched as a way to feel good about yourself, in a CSR sort of way. Today, however, reducing operational costs is more important than ever, and something to consider before making additional storage hardware purchases.

On top of this, most of the large businesses I’ve spoken with in the past year have serious data center capacity problems. Not floor space — there’s more than enough of that to go around. The problem is power. They can’t add a rack of equipment unless they can get rid of at least a rack at the same time, because as compute nodes have become denser and more power hungry they’ve simply run out of spare amps on their available circuits. (more…)

George Crump on Archives

Filed under: Jered Floyd — jeredfloyd @ 12:50 pm

George Crump has a nice new article up on the differences between the backup and archive use cases, appropriately titled Backup vs. Archive. He succinctly makes the point that backup infrastructures are not appropriate for new archive storage initiatives because the characteristics of backups and archives are very different.

A few months ago, in Two Types of Archives, I commented on a similar article, Archive Layer Cake by Chris Mellor over at Blocks & Files (now part of The Register). George expands on this further, identifying a half-dozen ways in which the new storage use cases are significantly different. An archive system isn’t going to replace your backup infrastructure, but will augment it with storage that provides higher reliability, better data verification, easier access, and easier data management, among other benefits. Go take a look at the article for more.

Budgets are shrinking, but data archive requirements are not. An archive storage solution can relieve pressure on both primary storage and backup environments, leading to immediate, and significant, cost savings.

October 14, 2008

Dedupe Ratios: Fact and Fiction

Filed under: Jered Floyd — jeredfloyd @ 5:13 am

Greetings, everyone. I’ve been back from my trip for a while; I apologize for the lack of posts! I’ll get some pictures up soon, although the ones in the official gallery are surely better. I’ll post some of the favorite things I saw later.

Over at his blog, Scott Waterhouse (from EMC) takes to task backup vendors that claim outrageous dedupe ratios. Now, this is just a wee bit entertaining given that EMC Avamar has been claiming deduplication ratios of 300:1 for many years now, but his point is absolutely valid. (more…)

October 12, 2008

Dirty Little Secrets About Dirty Little Secrets

Filed under: Jered Floyd — jeredfloyd @ 5:08 pm

Over at eWeek, Chris Preimesberger has what looks like a brutal article on archive systems. On further inspection, though, it looks more like a damning (but nameless) indictment of EMC’s Centera. In that context, he’s spot on, but I wish he didn’t try to drag down all of archiving with one rotten apple!

Let’s look through the problems Chris identifies. (more…)

August 22, 2008

Off the Grid, Out of the Cloud

Filed under: Jered Floyd — jeredfloyd @ 6:00 pm

No, not grid storage or cloud computing. I’m off to the wilds of Black Rock City, NV, and this year’s Burning Man festival, so you won’t be hearing from me for another two weeks after the recent flurry of activity. If I see anything particularly storage related, however, I will try to make a post!

In the meantime, be sure to check out the webinar Mike is doing next week; it promises to be interesting. Also, in addition to The Trouble With RAID, I’ve got a few more videos that will be going up over the coming weeks, explaining in more detail Permabit technologies such as RAIN-EC and SDR.

See you all again soon!

Deduplication is Not a Crime

Filed under: Jered Floyd — jeredfloyd @ 10:00 am

We’re starting to get deep into the election season, so the negative ads are coming fast and furious. Shadowy pictures and a scary voice saying things like “John Smith says that he supports healthy meals for school children, but could it really be because he’s fattening them up to be sold as meat to foreign terrorists? A child-eating terrorist supporter? Is that really the sort of person you want as your state representative?” The sort of manipulative FUD that scares people on an issue without actually presenting any evidence.

We get the same sort of thing in storage. It’s not seasonal, though.

For example, there’s been a good amount of FUD about deduplication. (more…)

August 21, 2008

Reducing Primary Storage Costs

Filed under: Jered Floyd — jeredfloyd @ 2:15 pm

I’ve written a lot here about how cost reduction is a primary driver for implementing an enterprise archive system, but I haven’t yet explained exactly how implementing a product like Permabit Enterprise Archive will directly (and immediately) save you money.

I’m going to be traveling for the next week and a half, but conveniently Mike Ivanov, our VP of Marketing, will be giving a webinar on this very topic while I’m away. Mike will be presenting Enterprise Archiving: Five Steps to Reduce Primary Storage Costs on Tuesday, August 26 at 1 PM EDT. If you can’t make that, he’ll also present again on Tuesday, September 9, also at 1 PM.

It’s a free webinar, and we’ll even send you a 1 GB USB flash drive to add to your collection. (I’m considering making some sort of tribal data storage necklace with all of mine.) The free 1 GB is not, of course, one of the five ways in which we save you money on storage, so maybe that makes it six if you attend?

Over the past few months we’ve done an extensive survey of storage and IT departments at enterprise customers. One of the big things we learned is that 72 percent of them are not seeing any growth in their IT budget, yet they have to keep up with storage growth of 50% or more. Everybody likes to save money, but reducing primary storage cost has now become critical.

I don’t want to steal Mike’s thunder by going into the details here on how enterprise archive cuts storage costs. I’ll write about that once I’m back in town, but for now, go tune in to his presentation! You can register here.

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