Reducing the High Cost of Data Management

Data Management is the process of ensuring data is on the right storage tier at just the right time. IT professionals that run the data management process are trying to strike a balance between saving the organization money by eliminating poor resource utilization and keeping users happy with storage that responds rapidly to their data requests. The problem is, the typical return on investment (ROI) models don’t calculate costs accurately and the cost of the data management software is exorbitant.

Data management software today is nothing like past iterations. Most operating systems or file systems now have readily accessible APIs that data management software vendors can use to safely identify and move older data to some form of secondary storage system. The rules and policy engines available in these solutions allows IT to easily create just the right data movement process for the organization. Even transparent recalls are relatively seamless thanks to general support for symbolic links, available in most file systems.

Data Management hardware, both disk and tape, can start relatively small in capacity and grow almost limitlessly based on customer need.

So, what’s the problem? One is the high cost of the data management software and the way that vendors calculate ROI. Data management software companies use the ROI miscalculation to justify their high price, something that many times customers reject.

The ROI Problem of Data Management

Data Management’s ROI problem is that vendors base their calculations on false assumptions when making those calculations. First, they don’t factor in that the hardware they are moving data from is already bought and paid for. While the customer may be out of capacity on primary storage, they are likely not planning to replace it.

For example, if a data center has 500TB of data and plans to purchase another 100TB, a data management vendor will assume, often correctly, that 80% of the data is old enough that it is archive worthy. In theory, that means that IT can archive 400TB of data and bases their calculation on that number. The reality is that the customer is not going to move 400TB of data day one (or year one) and 400TB of free space on primary storage does them little good. They only need to free up 100TB. The data management vendor(s) are also set to sell the organization something that will hold at least 400TB and license the software for the same.

The reality is the customer needs to free up 100TB today and then have the ability to free up another 100TB, (or whatever the demand calls for) in the future. The customer needs a software and hardware solution that can scale incrementally without punishing them (pricewise) for starting small.

Secondary storage hardware (whether disk and/or tape), tends to be very affordable, especially when compared to primary storage, once an initial capacity inertia is surpassed, and 100TB easily does it. Data management software on the other hand, tends to be very punitive, especially at lower capacity levels. In fact, most secondary storage hardware vendors state that the cost of the data management software is often 1.5X to 2X the cost of the secondary storage hardware.

Spectra Logic – Reducing the High Cost of Data Management with StorCycle™

Spectra Logic is celebrating its 40th year in business. Long known as an innovator in the tape automation market, it also has an impressive line of network attached storage (NAS) solutions. Spectra Logic also has a rich history in software development. They tapped into these skills to overcome one of the biggest complaints of their customers, the high cost of data management software. StorCycle is the most cost-effective data management software on the market today, especially when bundled with Spectra Logic hardware.

StorCycle is storage management software developed by Spectra Logic. It identifies inactive data on expensive primary storage and moves that data, based on policy, to lower cost secondary storage, including Cloud, NAS, Tape and Object Storage. It can also protect data, meaning it makes copies of data sets without moving them.

Spectra Logic, when it developed StorCycle, also focused on overcoming another data management challenge – complexity. The product is easy to install and can run as a virtual machine or on a dedicated server.

StorCycle’s interface is clean and straightforward to use. Policies can be set with just a few clicks. The initial version is Windows based for easy integration with Active Directory and can manage multiple Windows File Servers as well as NetApp, IBM and HDS NAS systems, and pretty much anything that the Windows operating system can mount.

Migration of data from expensive storage to inexpensive storage is a key component of any data management strategy. At the heart of the migration strategy is how to recall the data from secondary storage when the user needs it. The typical method is support for symbolic links, but Spectra adds something new here, an HTML Link. HTML Links are ideal for storage targets that have a longer restore time, such as Amazon Deep Archive and tape. An HTML Link provides a rich informational screen that provides the user the ability to start the recall, whereas a symbolic link blindly recalls the file. In addition to symbolic and HTML Links, the software also supports “copy only” (don’t migrate) and “migrate only” (don’t leave a symbolic or HTML link behind). Users can still retrieve files through the StorCycle web interface.

The product is already in Beta testing and is set to be generally available in November.

StorageSwiss Take

Convincing IT professionals and their organizations to stop the never-ending expansion of primary storage and to start managing their storage investments, is one of the most challenging conversations we have. Even though we work with a corrected ROI model, the numbers still work out overwhelmingly in favor of proper data management. Getting over the initial investment in hardware and especially software is always a challenge and stalls many data management projects indefinitely.

Spectra Logic may have the answer to the data management challenge with a cost-correct data management software solution that doesn’t overreach. Its primary focus is solving the problem that most organizations want to manage data for in the first place, reducing storage costs. Their StorCycle solution is well worth a close examination.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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