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Storage: Addressing the capacity conundrum

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Any discussion of enterprise storage inevitably comes down to a recurrent theme: the challenge of meeting ballooning capacity requirements. Even the relatively simple solution of throwing more capacity at the problem is no longer considered a suitable strategy, since despite the dramatic and considerable reduction in cost per megabyte, enterprise information growth is just too much.

The answer, contends Tony de Sousa, CEO of Quantum Africa, lies rather in the more efficient storage of information. And industry has risen to the challenge with the introduction of the concept of capacity optimisation.
“Throwing additional capacity at the problem does perhaps solve the immediate issue of the additional space required by applications, databases and users. However, it costs money and can also result in a management nightmare,” says De Sousa.
Capacity optimisation, on the other hand, provides for the more efficient use of existing resources and plays into the hands of improved control of the data storage environment. De Sousa explains that Capacity Optimised Storage (COS) represents a new class of storage systems and software technologies that allow for the reduction of required capacity by up to a staggering one hundred times. In plain language, that means a 100GB hard drive is capable of storing up to 10TB.
The secret to COS storage, says de Sousa, is data de-duplication. “As a concept this is actually quite easy to understand. Duplication is one of the enduring features of electronic data; copies of documents, file systems, databases, just about any data you can think of, abound throughout the enterprise. By removing duplication through intelligence, the capacity crunch is directly addressed but without necessarily introducing more capacity,” he explains.
De Sousa says COS is particularly viable as a solution for data archiving, a discipline traditionally dominated by tape storage subsystems, owing to the low cost of this medium. Noting that discussions of the demise of tape storage have endured for decades, he says the medium won’t disappear. “The market is definitely moving towards virtual tape libraries [VTL] at the expense of tape owing to the advantages associated with disk storage such as fast and reliable write and retrieval,” he says.
A VTL is a disk-based system which completely emulates a standard library. As a result, the introduction of virtual tape is seamless and transparent to existing tape backup/recovery applications.
“As the market moves towards VTLs, there is no question that vendors which do not offer data de-duplication and COS will struggle to get into the market. That is a simple reality of the capacity challenges which customers are facing, where throwing bigger systems at the problem is just not a realistic solution any longer,” de Sousa says.
He believes tape will slowly but steadily give way to disk-based COS systems which are capable of delivering the required capacity at an increasingly favourable price point.
“De-duplication and COS are really new to the market; as a result, sales are likely to be slow initially but certainly as knowledge grows, so will adoption,” says de Sousa.
“What is useful, however, is the fact that this technology is very easy to demonstrate on any modular disk drive, providing the ability to store impressive volumes of data on a standard drive. Certainly we are already seeing interest from the likes of the State Information Technology Agency on tenders. Expect COS to be a big thing,” he concludes.