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Storage Guru

Tips to keep your data clean, green and organized.

Jon Toigo
Jon W. Toigo

Recently, Redmond Editor in Chief Doug Barney spoke with noted storage expert Jon W. Toigo about cleansing data to save energy.

Redmond: Why don't most enterprises get rid of unneeded data?
Toigo: Who will take responsibility? IT folks see data as a bunch of anonymous ones and zeros. Users don't name their files intelligibly. Information-governance folks, where organizations have such a group, haven't come to terms with policies or how to implement them yet. A lot of vendors are encouraging long-term storage on disk arrays built for that purpose. It's the Doritos effect in action: "Crunch all you want. We'll make more disk drives." Bottom line: Few companies have done the math to see what data needs to be retained, for how long, and when deletion is safe.

How much space does this all take up? Is unneeded data duplicated and backed up? Does this compound the problem?
Unmanaged data comes in several flavors: data that needs to be retained but that could be moved into a green media archive leveraging optical or tape; "orphan data," whose user/server owner (identified in file metadata) no longer exists at the company; and contraband data, such as bootleg movies, MP3s, photos, etc. On average, these three types of data, which could be weeded out with some simple data hygiene, take up roughly 65 percent of the space on every spindle owned by the company.

Imagine what would happen if you established a green archive and, after review by qualified folks, deleted the data that doesn't need to be there.

Instead, what I currently see are companies copying data several times, sometimes for protection, but also out of a need to share copies rather than access to data-especially in e-mail.

How can enterprises get a handle on this data?
There are no silver bullets, and a lot of archive vendors, like their hardware peers, are creating stovepipe solutions to deal with specific types of data: user files, ECM [enterprise content management] output, e-mail and databases, just to name four. Each one has its own hardware and software components and requires its own trained group to manage. What's needed is a manager of managers, or MOM, that will coordinate the policies among different archive engines so that they can be aggregated into a more comprehensive solution.

I think that products like CA Records Manager and Novell's Novell Storage Manager, and maybe FileTek's Trusted Edge, can help a lot with user file management; user files account for more than half of the data in storage today and seem to be growing the fastest.

Database archiving, ECM output management and even e-mail archive solutions are proliferating as well.

Pick the technology you like and get it up and running, but don't buy the hardware from the vendor. Use your existing gear or work with an integrator to set up a decent platform for storing what little of this stuff you actually need to retain.

What are the potential energy savings from data cleansing?
Every case will be different. But consolidating 50 percent or 60 percent of your current capacity and deferring the need to deploy more has got to have an impact on energy consumption and cooling.

While projections about data center power have mostly focused on server power and heat generation, the truth is that most data centers are experiencing a net decrease or at least a leveling off of server-related power demand expansion. That's in part because of a great effort by the server vendors to improve power supply efficiency and to host more apps on fewer servers. Virtualization may even play a role.

What are the other benefits of rationalizing this data?
Data can be exposed to necessary services -- from hosting to security to disaster recovery -- much more cost effectively when data is managed. Unmanaged data is a huge problem that hits all three dimensions of IT business value: cost containment, risk reduction and top-line growth. Solving the problem is the critical challenge of our times.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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