Overwhelmed by unstructured data, like images, video and files not in a database, enterprises are struggling to keep up with storage capacity needs, especially since budgets are flat. As we discussed in a recent article, “The 3 Problems With Adding Capacity To Your NAS”, the standard operating procedure of just adding capacity to your primary disk/NAS or buying additional NAS systems is not sustainable. It puts strain on the data protection process and the IT budget.
One innovative solution is to move this data to an archive that integrates disk and tape to lower costs and unburden the data protection process. The challenge has been how to identify and move this data to that archive. This largely manual process has to be upgraded to something more automated and transparent to keep pace with unstructured data growth.
Crossroads has recently announced an option for its StrongBox solution that does exactly that. Its StrongBox DataManager solution can integrate with NetApp NAS systems, Windows File Servers and Linux NFS servers and automatically, as well as seamlessly, migrate data to and from a StrongBox solution.
Step 1 – Implement a Scalable, Low-Cost Archive
Crossroads StrongBox NAS ends the debate about which media type should be used for the archive. Disk vs. Tape becomes disk and tape. Both disk and tape have unique attributes that should be leveraged together when archiving data. Disk provides rapid access to recently archived data and ease of access, while tape provides long term, cost effective and power efficient storage of data as it ages.
The key capability of StrongBox is that the data or file is still accessed the same way no matter where it is stored. As we discussed in our article, “Unstructured Data Meets Tape Archiving Efficiency”, neither the user nor the administrator needs to know the exact location of the file. They just need to know the name of the file (or relevant metadata) and StrongBox retrieves it for them.
An important feature of StrongBox is that the tapes it creates are written in LTFS. LTFS prevents vendor lock-in and allows for tape interchange between backup and archive systems. As an example, the above tapes sent to the archive could be read by virtually any archiving system or even directly by the operating system itself.
Step 2 – Seamlessly Move from Primary Storage to the Archive
As discussed above, the key challenge is moving data to the archive as defined in step one. Unstructured data is growing so fast that it is difficult for most IT professionals to keep up with it. They simply don’t have the time to manually audit their NetApp, Windows or Linux file systems to see which data they should move to the archive. Consequently, they need this process to be fully automated for them while being totally transparent to end-users.
In its latest release, StrongBox now offers a seamless data migrator function, appropriately named “StrongBox DataManager”, that provides transparent data management between primary storage systems and the StrongBox archive. This capability interfaces with network attached storage (NAS) systems like NetApp, Windows, Linux and other NFS/CIFS file systems. It works by automatically identifying files that have not been accessed in a user defined period of time and then moving those files to the low cost archive mount point that StrongBox presents. What Crossroads has done differently than other HSM and data migration solutions, is to integrate both the movement and archiving of unstructured data and fixed content as one simple, protected, cost effective solution.
A Compelling Cost Per GB
At this year’s NAB Show, Crossroads Systems debuted a new, compelling pricing model for the StrongBox NAS. It includes unlimited capacity and vaulting options to help companies cope with massive data growth by offering a petabyte of uncompressed data for only $125K. This is an impressive price point when you consider that just buying 1PB of raw drives would cost more than this alone. Once you factor in the cost to put those drives into a storage system, provide RAID redundancy and include all the necessary software to create and manage the archive, the costs can quickly escalate well above this price point.
Strongbox is able to achieve this price point because it uses tape as the underlying bulk storage medium and as a result, costs are much lower than disk for long-term retention. But importantly, it can still provide the disk “experience” for the end-user since it integrates disk into its archive solution.
Fragile Data Management
Any veteran of IT will recognize the fact that we have been down this data management road before with initiatives like Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) and Information Lifecycle Management (ILM). Despite their budget saving potential, these initiatives failed for a number of reasons. First they were frequently offered by different vendors; one vendor would supply the tape library, another the tertiary disk, another the archiving software and still another the data movement software. Integrating these disparate components and keeping them working was a full time job.
Secondly, the software which did the migration often had to “hack” its way into the various operating systems in order to provide that transparent movement of data back and forth between primary storage and secondary storage. Typically, the software was susceptible to incompatibilities with almost any change in the underlying operating system. Adding still further complexity to managing the solution.
Third, the metadata used to manage the linkage between what the user saw and where the data was stored, was often a fragile database stored on the primary storage device itself. This metadata, generally called stub files, often was accidentally deleted or was corrupted and that meant finding and accessing the data became very difficult.
Unbreakable Data Management
StrongBox DataManager solves these three big concerns. First, all of the components of the solution are from a single vendor, Crossroads, and are integrated together. There is a single “throat to choke” or in the case of this solution, “a single back to pat”. Secondly, StrongBox DataManager works with the published APIs that each of the vendors now provide in order to properly integrate into their respective operating systems. This includes NetApp’s F Policy. The software is resilient to operating system updates and the operating system understands how to work with it.
A Use Case for NetApp Filers
Across many data centers, there are literally shelves and shelves of old data attached to filers. It seems that users quickly go from their initial disk system to dozens just to keep pace with capacity growth. While transactional data should reside on these high-performance disk and/or flash resources, infrequently accessed data can be moved to a much lower-cost alternative – StrongBox. Starting at $125k for 1 PB, the StrongBox solution provides a compelling price while delivering simple accessibility, long-term resiliency and complete data protection.
The impact of moving this data to a StrongBox Archive via DataManager can be particularly valuable to a data center with a large commitment to NetApp or other NFS/CIFS based storage. With StrongBox DataManager they can realize an immediate release of primary storage capacity and eliminate the need to place additional orders for premium priced shelves. At the same time, they can greatly simplify data protection as we discussed in our article, “How Tape Can Fix The Unstructured Backup Problem”.
In essence, StrongBox DataManager empowers NetApp systems and storage admins to define, allocate and optimize storage using policies for transparent data movement from expensive disk into StrongBox. Data is always protected and there is no interruption to the users’ experience with archiving or accessing files.
This Article Sponsored By Crossroads