Finding a file you wrote on your laptop’s hard drive can be difficult. If a file you collaborated on is stored on your department’s file server, it can be even more difficult to find. You just need to remember the user that created it, their directory logic, and what they called the file. Just like searching for an important item you stored in a drawer somewhere – the more time passes, the harder it is to remember these things. And just like the lost item, the higher capacity NAS the NAS is, the less likely you will be to find a file you are looking for.
The parallels between lost items and lost files continue. When you’re trying to remember where the items or files are, you spend (waste) time mentally walking through the last time you remember working on the file or item. If you can just remember the last place you put it or saw it, you might actually be able to find it again. But unbeknownst to you, someone reorganized where your stored the item. And the person you collaborated with moved that directory to another location to save space, or to unclutter things.
Finally, it happens. You give up looking and just decide to buy a replacement item or recreate the file from scratch. It’s incredibly annoying because now you are wasting time and resources creating something that you know is already there somewhere. But you have no choice because you need that file or item.
Imagine if you could say “Alexa! Where is my item?” Alexa would respond with “Your item is in room ABC, on the east wall, on the third shelf from the floor.” Imagine if you could search for files the same way. “Alexa! Where are the project Apollo files that Steve Smith and I worked on together last August?” And the reply would be, “Those files are in this directory path. They’ve been migrated to cold storage, so it’ll take a few minutes to get them back. Would you like me to retrieve them for you?”
The Alexa integration might be a stretch, but the idea is sound. You should be able to search for your files using metadata, rather than crude things like directory location. Metadata can be automatically created (e.g. users who access a file and dates they accessed it), or a user can create and insert it (e.g. project names). A modern scale-out NAS system should make it easy to search any metadata present in a file and ideally integrate artificial intelligence or asset management capabilities to create very robust metadata about the content of the file.
For this to work, of course, the metadata catalog will need to be able to scale just like the NAS system. It might grow quite large, and the performance of queries against it need to scale linearly as the capacity of the scale-out NAS system grows.
Integrated search has been missing from NAS systems for a long time. This is why the search appliance industry exists. Modern scale-out NAS systems should recognize this deficiency and address it. The bigger the NAS system scales, the more this will be a problem. But the product that incorporates this into their product has to solve the scaling issue while not creating a new problem of not being able to find anything.
Sponsored by Quantum