– Mark Pastor, Archive Product Marketing Manager, Quantum, says:

Let’s face it: primary storage vendors love anyone who will keep infrequently accessed data on primary storage. These customers are like money in the bank, and the last thing a primary storage vendor wants is for those customers to wise up and break the chains that bind enterprises to their current storage investment model.

New or Modified Data Needs to be Protected Quickly

When data is created or modified by some business process or production workflow, it is an IT manager’s imperative to ensure that work is not lost. Today’s common practice is to design data flows to include processes that back up this new data as quickly as possible. It’s typical to back up the data locally to enable a quick restore and create an off-site copy to protect the data in the event of a site disaster such as a flood, tornado, earthquake or fire. This practice requires that there be enough secondary storage to back up the original work.

Backup Storage and Other Cost Burdens Accompany Primary Storage

Primary storage carries the associated burden of additional investments in backup storage, off-site storage, software licenses for all that capacity, network bandwidth to support daily backups and power and cooling to support all that storage. The old-school paradigm of buying more primary storage to keep up with today’s data explosion is unsustainable. It’s easy to see how one might fall prey to primary storage vendors that want you to be a patsy by continuing to invest in the primary storage paradigm and therefore downplay the significance of all the associated hidden costs. This clearly isn’t the best solution to the problem.

New Demands Require New Architectures – the Case for Active Archive

In many situations today’s data demands could not have been anticipated during the initial architecting of current data storage environments. And now that business models, data generation tools, analytics, software and storage technologies have advanced so dramatically, it is critically important to step back and look at the big picture before committing to an additional investment in primary storage.

In a recent study* on the increasing value of business data, industry analyst IDC observed that “other new applications, such as Web 2.0 and real-time business analytics, are driving IT-based applications to the point of customer or employee contact and becoming mission critical along the way. This could increase the need for IT to be so close to the business units that it becomes part of them rather than merely a service organization.”

Enter the age of active archive. “Active archive” refers to data that is not actively changing but may have ongoing business-use value. It is not always predictable when data will be valuable, so the goal is to structure data storage in a way that allows for immediate access to data when the opportunity arises. This anticipated need is driving companies to archive data for years – sometimes without an end in sight.

*Footnote: Worldwide File and Object Based Storage 2013 – 2017 Forecast, IDC, July 2013

Don’t Keep Backing Up the Same Data

There is clearly an alternative that should be on the table when contemplating new primary storage investments. The alternative recognizes that archive data (including active archive data) should be handled differently than data that is actively being modified. This is obvious when considering that if archive data isn’t changing, why would it be necessary to run it through the rigors of backup? Once this non-changing archive data is protected, it is wasteful to keep duplicating it for protection purposes. This data should only need to be acted upon when there’s a reason to access it.

The alternative to continuing to fuel the procurement of more primary storage for active archive data is to place this data on other storage that is better suited to active access as well as lower cost to support long-term data retention.  This is not a new concept but what is new is the availability of archive storage solutions that fully meet these requirements.

Tape has long been the media of choice for low-cost archive data storage, and it continues to thrive for this purpose. However, many IT environments need archive data to be available with lower latency and simpler management than tape provides, and that is one fact that has held back IT managers from pursuing the separation of active (modified) data from active archive data.

Today, a few object storage based products have come to market to help address this solution gap. Quantum’s Lattus object storage technology, as an example, can substantially lower the cost to store hundreds of TBs of data relative to traditional storage while providing even greater protection than other technologies – and offering access to data at disk-like latencies. With object storage, IT managers now can move active archive data off of primary storage. By doing this, the expense of data protection software, storage hardware, and network bandwidth can all be reduced compared to traditional approaches that rely on primary storage.

To break the shackles of primary storage, make sure you consider object storage before investing in more primary storage.


Mark Pastor is product marketing manager for archive products at Quantum. Mark represents Quantum within the Active Archive Alliance. He regularly blogs on topics relating to data protection and archival.