Maybe you don’t need to replace your NetApp filer. Maybe what you need to do is just make better use of it. Repurpose it and revitalize it instead of replacing it.
Unstructured data – while incredibly valuable – usually has a cliff of importance. It tends to be very valuable for a brief period of time and then its value drops off precipitously — but its value does not drop off to zero. In fact, there are a number of use cases for historical unstructured data that increase its value well above zero. But it still doesn’t warrant tier 1 storage.
Consider just one example of a use case for unstructured data. Consider a hospital that stores all of their patient information in an unstructured format. The records of last week’s doctor visits are incredibly important right now, and they may be important years from now. But the value of them will definitely decrease in a few months — but the hospital still needs to keep the records around. What if, however, the hospital was able to increase the value of these records by running data analysis or signal detection software against them that would allow them to detect trends in the hundreds of thousands of records available to them. What if such analysis could help them better diagnose patients or help identify good and bad drug interactions? The possibilities are limitless – but only if they keep the data around and accessible at an appropriate cost.
However, the challenges of keeping significant amounts of unstructured data are legion. Most NAS systems are scale up and not scale out, which means you inevitably create data islands. It’s hard to run data analysis against data that is not centrally managed and located. It’s also challenging for the users to use historical data when it is spread out among many systems.
One solution to this problem is a scale out NAS solution. While this will solve the central management problem, it’s not really appropriate to put historical unstructured data on tier 1 storage. This is mainly because the cost per gigabyte of such systems tends to be much more expensive than the alternatives.
It’s more appropriate to put such data on object storage, since it is also centrally managed, infinitely scalable, and much less expensive than scale out NAS solutions. However this does create another challenge. Even if you kept only one filer and put everything else in the object storage system, you now have two data islands. Users will need to figure out where they need to go in order to find the data that they’re looking for. Another challenge is that you may need to create an interface between the users and the storage protocol the object storage system uses. This complexity is exactly what you’re trying to get away from.
Our on demand webinar “What Does Your Next NetApp Refresh Look Like” addresses these questions and discusses an alternative that allows you to repurpose and reuse your existing filers while also solving the problems mentioned above.