The Archival Conundrum

Arthur Cole

When it comes to data archiving, the typical enterprise is caught in a classic squeeze play. One the one hand, there is the need to increase both search and retention capabilities for discovery and competitive reasons, and on the other is the pressure to reduce storage infrastructure to conserve space and energy.


The short answer to this dilemma is to find a way to increase capacity without expanding your storage footprint, but the reality is that it's easier said than done.


Of course, that doesn't mean people aren't trying. And just as virtualization is getting more mileage out of server hardware, it's poised to bring the same benefits to archiving.


In the latest release of its Enterprise Active Archive platform, British firm Plasmon PLC combines virtualization plus disk and optical technology to form a multi-tiered system for long-term storage. The system is built around Plasmon's Ultra Density Optical (UDO) appliance that scales from 1 to 78 TB. Automation and policy management is provided by Nexsan's Assureon software, while enhanced search capabilities in the EEA software simplifies the search across multiple storage media.


The virtualization aspect focuses largely on the policy and data management side to allow both disk drives and the UDO appliances to work together as archive targets. The idea is to establish service levels in conjunction with the combined storage technologies to meet both archival and disaster recovery goals within a compact storage infrastructure.


Virtualization also will likely play a larger role in IBM archiving solutions. The company just opened a new archival development center in Guadalajara, Mexico, designed to help top-tier customers develop long-term storage solutions. The Global Archive Solutions Center will simulate real-world enterprise environments to show how virtualization, service management, cloud computing and other techniques can be combined to conform to IBM's New Enterprise Data Center model.


Large companies can afford the latest virtual technologies for their archival needs, but it's the small and medium-sized firms that have the greater space and cost constraints when it comes to expanding their storage options. Mimosa Systems is looking to tap into that need with NearPoint File Systems Archiving (FSA). The system maintains a single global instance of documents and files, freeing up space in the near-line storage array. Not only does this move archival data off of the most expensive storage system, it also cuts down on data corruption caused by too many file extensions.


Despite these advances, the truth of the matter that archiving is likely to be a significant cost center for the foreseeable future. As more data accumulates through time, storage expansion is inevitable. But with the right mix of technologies, perhaps we can at least hold it to a minimum.

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