A key aspect of data management is moving data that the organization is no longer accessing to less expensive storage like high capacity NAS, object storage, or the public cloud. The benefit is that the organization can reduce the amount of money it spends on primary storage and buy much less expensive secondary storage. The problem is that most data management solutions are insanely costly. Many times the combination of the data management software and the secondary storage hardware is only slightly less expensive than primary storage. Storage Resource Management (SRM) may be a better alternative, especially if the SRM developer provides it as a service like Visual Storage Intelligence (VSI).
Why is Data Management so Darn Expensive?
Data Management solutions typically charge by the capacity under management. Usually, 80% of an organization’s data is passive and qualifies for managing by the data management solution. That high level of passive data means that the capacity under management charge can be a very high dollar amount. Think about that. The organization is paying to manage data that is not changing and not being accessed. The only action the data management application takes is identifying the passive data and moving it to a secondary storage device.
Data management solutions may also set up the ability to transparently move data back to production storage if it becomes active. Typically a data management application uses some form of symbolic links to perform the transparent movement of data. These links are susceptible to deletion and may interfere with or confuse the backup process. Also, by using symbolic links, the organization is not reducing the file count on the original file system, which means the file system sees no improvement in performance by moving the data to secondary storage.
Creating a complex and fragile process to provide a transparent return of data may be worth it if there is a high chance of access. In most cases, the data that the data management application is moving is data that users probably won’t access again in years. Charging extra for something that the organization is unlikely to use is a waste of money, especially if that process is likely to create additional problems.
Why is SRM a Better Answer?
Storage Resource Management (SRM) is a better answer because it does more than the typical data management application does. Most data management applications only identify old data and move it to older storage. SRM solutions can identify old data, and they can monitor storage system performance, capacity utilization, drive health, and a variety of other metrics. In all fairness, one thing that SRM solutions can’t do is move the data. The SRM tool can provide a list of files to move, but the actual movement is done by IT, but most IT administrators can quickly execute this step.
The other thing that SRM does not do is provide transparent access to data. Again, the seamless access to files that the data management solutions offer is one of the reasons they are so expensive, and it is one of the reasons that these solutions often fail. In most cases, the data moved to secondary storage is NEVER reaccessed. If it is, it is usually for a particular reason, like restarting a project or responding to an eDiscovery request. In both of these situations, the data can often stay on secondary storage, which saves the time of copying it back and the challenge of finding production storage on which to place it.
Crawl, Walk, Run
At VSI, we find that most customers do, indeed, find that 80% or more of their files are passive. No application or user needed to access this data for more than a year. In many cases, data is passive for more than three years. We also find that once a file qualifies as inactive, the chances of re-activation are almost non-existent. That being said, no IT administrator in their right mind is going to want to move 80% of their data to secondary storage (or buy that much secondary storage) on day one. With VSI, IT can start slow and only move the older 10% of storage and then gradually move the percentage up as it needs to free up more capacity. After implementing VSI, the goal should be to eliminate the need to buy additional production storage for a year or more.
Solving the SRM Problem
SRM isn’t free, but we think most vendors charge too much. Most SRM vendors, like data management solutions, charge for the capacities they are monitoring. They are also relatively complex installations, and while they are analyzing data, they can disrupt operations. That is why, at VSI, we created Storage Resource Management as a Service (SRMaaS). Our solution is a simple three-step process and can start delivering details on the storage infrastructure within hours of sign-up.
Using VSI enables organizations to have access to a simple, very cost-effective service that has almost no impact on operations. It can provide a much more cost-effective way to reduce primary storage costs while also providing IT with the insights it needs to prevent problems before they impact applications practically.