Storage Outlook '07: In search of better data management

Brian Peterson, storage architect for a Midwest-based Fortune 100 company, says better data management and business processes will be the main goal in 2007.

Brian Peterson is a storage architect for a Midwestern Fortune 100 consumer packaged goods manufacturer (you know the name, but Peterson said he would rather we not mention his company in this article). The massive environment at the company's headquarters, where Peterson works, consists of 500 terabytes (TB) of EMC Corp. primary disk, 300 TB of VTL, 1200 McData Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. ports, Symantec Corp. NetBackup and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) running backups, Symantec Veritas Volume Replication and EMC's SRDF for replication … whew, is that everything?

What's your most important storage project for 2007?

Brian Peterson: We are constantly working on improving DR [disaster recovery] recoverability. Even if the data is replicated off site, testing should be continuous. We are also planning to define and implement a records management policy. We need to prepare now for the lawsuits that may occur five years from now.

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What do you think will be the biggest hurdles to implementing storage in the coming year?

Peterson: The next hurdle we will have is how to manage the information we store. We can store the bits and bytes on disk, but with hundreds of terabytes, how will we manage information in terms of retention and expiration? Increasing regulation without viable technologies and methodologies to help will make life more difficult. We've figured out how to scale, but really we don't know what we have.

What storage technologies are you evaluating for 2007? What looks interesting to you?

Peterson: Records management tools, improved backup storage (something better than tape or VTL) and storage capacity planning tools.

Have you seen any kind of backup alternative that looks promising? Why doesn't tape or VTL seem like the best approach?

Peterson: We like tape and VTL because of the compression on the drives. We get up to 4 to1 compression, saving lots of storage resources. The VTL improves upon some of the traditional limitations with physical tape libraries. With VTLs, we can create hundreds of virtual tape drives. Each server can have its own dedicated drives, reducing the complexity of shared tape resource.

The SCSI tape protocol has some downsides shared by both VTL and physical tape. Both are very sensitive to latency in the [storage area network] SAN network. Neither enables concurrent reads from the same volume by two separate hosts. This means tape replication for DR and restores cannot happen at the same time. Finally, tape drives are just finicky when it comes to SCSI resets and reserves.

I haven't really seen any good alternatives, yet. I'm looking for disk-like resiliency and flexibility with compression or data deduplication. It should allow multiple hosts to have concurrent read access to the same backup image. It should be scalable beyond a single frame without inducing additional management overhead. A guy can wish, can't he?

What do you predict will happen in the storage market in general in 2007? What technologies will be the most important?

Peterson: It's hard to say what will be the most important development this year. Data deduplication holds a lot of promise and could radically change the way we store and retain information.

What do you hope WON'T happen in 2007?

Peterson: I hope that we won't run out of disk and have no money to buy more. Or let a 100 TB disk array fail. Yikes! I hope we don't get sued and have to produce all the spreadsheets touched by executive X in the last three years.

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