Although IT professionals and vendors often think of storage efficiency in different ways, there are usually two main methods of handling it. One is through efficient storage systems that maximize resources. The other is through data management that determines where data is located and how it is protected.
Efficient storage systems control the placement of data within the storage system and the movement of data based upon a set of rules. The systems maximize capacity and performance in several ways:
• Data reduction through data deduplication or compression
• Tiering with intelligent algorithms to move data between physical tiers such as solid state drives (SSDs) and high capacity disk drives
• Caching to maintain a transient copy of highly active data in a high speed cache
• Controlling data placement based on quality of service settings for performance guarantees.
Efficient data management requires dynamically changing the data’s location. This may involve moving data beyond a single storage system. The initial data placement and subsequent movement is based on information about the data that determines its value. This information determines performance needs and frequency of access, data protection requirements including disaster recovery and business continuance demands, and the volume and projected growth of the data. Most importantly, the process takes into account that these factors change over time.
Managing data efficiently presumes that there are classes of storage with different performance and cost attributes, and a variable data protection strategy that can be adapted according to requirements.
When data value changes, it must be moved to a more optimal location with a different set of data protection rules. The movement must be seamless and transparent so the accessing applications are not aware of the location transitions.
Data protection changes must also be transparent so that recovery from a disaster or operational problem always involves the correct copy. Efficient data management must be automated to operate effectively without introducing additional administration costs.
This type of data management existed in the mainframe world for a long time as Data Facility Systems Managed Storage (DFSMS) before moving into open systems.
An interesting area that should be watched closely is migration capabilities built into storage systems that can move data across systems based on policies administrators set up. The IBM Storwize V7000 Active Cloud Engine, Hitachi Data Systems BlueArc Data Migrator and EMC VMAX Federated Live Migration are a few examples of these. The EMC Cloud Tiering Appliance also does this, but is not built into the storage system.
This will be a competitive area because there is great economic value in managing data more efficiently. Watch this area for significant developments in the future.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).