The Difference Between Managing and Drowning in Data

Michael Vizard

The biggest issue with storing data these days is that it’s become too complicated for mere mortals to deal with. There’s a massive amount of undetermined business value that the average IT person is supposed to figure out where to place on any number of different classes of storage devices.

The good news is that storage vendors are finally making some progress in terms of automating the storage of data across multiple tiers. The latest example of this comes from NetApp, which today released an update to the NetApp Data OnTap software that manages its storage systems.

According to Dave Hitz, co-founder and executive vice president of NetApp, the latest version makes it a lot simpler to manage storage starting with a pool of Flash memory, shifting over to solid-state drives (SSDs) and then moving all the way down to inexpensive SATA drives. Rather than administrators having to figure out where to store data, the system keeps track of what data is used most often and automatically stores it in the most appropriate place.

This automated tiering of storage is key to not only making storage simpler to manage, but also reducing the cost of storage. The vast majority of the data that organizations need to store can be placed on inexpensive SATA drives, while the company’s most critical data resides on Flash memory, says Hitz. Throw in some data deduplication software and it’s not long before most organizations will have data storage under control, he adds.

There’s no doubt that the volume of data that organizations are trying to deal with is increasing and that the types and classes of data are also expanding. Those data types typically come with different performance attributes that ideally the storage system should be intelligent enough to recognize. Managing those types of data, adds Hitz, is more complicated now because the data itself is more sensitive in terms of the rules and policies that need to be applied against it.

Hiltz says that as storage continues to evolve, IT organizations are really witnessing the convergence of data and storage management using automated tiering, which Hitz concedes as a technology has had a checkered history. But as data storage requirements become more nuanced, increased reliance on automation is the only thing standing between being able to effectively manage data and simply drowning in it.

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