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Here are 10 ways storage/backup administrators can save time, effort and money.
Tape. Tape is the reigning champion of low-cost storage. For example, the Sun Microsystems Inc. StorageTek SL8500 tape library holds 8,500 tapes. An LTO-4 tape cartridge holds 800 GB of data natively, 1.6 TB at the industry accepted 2:1 compression rate. 8,500 x 1.6 TB equals 13.6 petabytes of information stored. An LTO-4 cartridge costs approximately $50 per cartridge. Assuming the tape library will be around $500K, $425K for tape cartridges to hold that amount, and say $75K for 10 tape drives to read/write the data, you are looking at storing 13 petabytes of data for $1 million. There's no denser, less-expensive storage solution that can even get to $2 million for the initial cost outlay to store that amount of information. Plus, since tape is sitting idle not requiring any electricity or extra energy, the amount of resources necessary to maintain access to the data is hundreds of times lower than what it would take for disk. To secure the media offsite, the cartridge is mobile and can be sent from one site to another for data security/disaster recovery. The alternative is to have to have the same capacity of disk sitting somewhere else and the data to be copied to another expensive storage location.
MAID. The philosophical question of whether data that is rarely if ever to be accessed again should sit on something continuing to spin, generate heat, and use electricity is answered "no" by the providers of MAID technology who spin down the disks when not needed. This not only saves money, but greatly increases the reliability as devices that aren't in use don't break nearly as often.
Data deduplication. Hurray for the removal of duplicate information. Less data to manage means faster backups, quicker restores and data deduplication reduces the need for more storage which cuts both capital and operational expenses.
Compression. Deduplicating ten 2 MB files down to one still leaves you with a 2 MB file to store and back up. Compression can mash that file down to one 200 KB file. 20 MB down to 200 KB? That's lean and green! Compression takes files and makes them smaller, often times by removing many of the zeros, which take up a big portion of the file size. So you may have 10 versions of the same file, all of them compressed, and now you have 10 compressed versions of the same file. Deduplication will remove the duplicated files, leaving a pointer to the one physical file. Deduplication without compression can leave you with a single version of an uncompressed file, which is a space reducer by all means, but does not do as much as compression and deduplication together.
Thin provisioning. Setting aside half a terabyte of physical storage for that 10 GB database that you are expecting to grow reduces the storage available for other applications and causes you to have to pay for and manage more storage than is really necessary. Thin provisioning allows you to only tie up disk that you are actually using, grow into storage as it's necessary, but not have over allocated storage hanging around, unable to be used, eating up electricity and floor space.
Information lifecycle management (ILM). When implemented properly, ILM brings together multiple storage tiers together to allow you to have the right capacity and performance for the right price which makes your solutions not only more effective, but efficient from initial purchase through every level of data protection management.
Solid-state disk (SSD). SSD is dropping in cost and increasing in capacity. The performance gains compared to physical disk are as great as the energy savings from not having spinning disks. To meet the same performance speeds of eight SSDs, it would take intricate striping of data over more than 200 of the fastest Fibre Channel drives. The energy savings alone make the component-level price delta almost a moot issue. Over the next two years, the price of SSD will drop so drastically, SSD will become a solution for higher capacity environments as well.
SATA disk. Yes, these higher capacity, slower, and less-reliable drives (compared to the faster, lower capacity, more reliable Fibre Channel drives) help corporations save money, floor, and rack space by providing more capacity in a smaller physical space for the purposes of an alternative storage point for lower priority applications, disk-to-disk backups, or an archival point for less-frequently accessed data.
Storage resource management (SRM). SRM software allows storage administrators to manage data spread across multiple locations much more efficiently than going to each and every location to make a change. Imagine if a file exists on your primary storage, secondary, tape, as well as your disaster recovery location and you need to change a policy surrounding it. With an integrated SRM tool, from one screen, you can make the change and it will apply it no matter where the file exists.
Storage consolidation. The technologies that themselves allow businesses to reduce the number of hardware components on their floor, reducing maintenance costs and additional points of failure to manage, but give them the same or more capabilities should be considered "green" technologies. Intelligent storage bridges that allow different storage types to all hang behind one controller card instead of each of them having their own separate network is certainly green. A storage controller that virtualizes different vendor's storage arrays behind it brings down initial costs and reduces the need for specialized training to know the ins-and-outs of each system.
About this author: Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) Senior Storage Analyst, and Ask Mr. Storage writer, Curtis Breville is a storage industry veteran with over two decades of experience ranging from technical roles with small businesses to consulting, architecting solutions for, and selling to some of the largest and most complex data centers in the world.