Dirty Little Secrets 3-5

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-10-10 Print this article Print

Dirty Little Secret No. 3: Data protection. The existence of the commodity hardware "back door."

Many archive companies allow a customer to use "commodity" hardware-standard storage arrays from companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, EMC and IBM-along with their software as part of the "system solution."

"They then will claim that those archives are secure and that they maintain data protection and integrity," Woolery said. "But there is a huge back door, and that is this: Because it's commodity storage, it's anybody's storage, and you can't control that storage. The software is not tied directly to the hardware."

An example of this: An administrator could delete all data at the hardware level, effectively bypassing the software-based security. A good archiving solution should manage this at both the hardware and software layer.

"Someone can go in there and delete a complete RAID set, if they want to, without the application security being able to stop him," Woolery said. "The software doesn't know you deleted the RAID set, and because it's commodity storage, the software and hardware are not necessarily linked all the way down to the hardware level. That's a lot of work to do if you're using anybody's commodity storage."

Dirty Little Secret No. 4: Data migration: When an archive is moved, the files can become orphaned and the entire process could become exceedingly slow.

When most archive applications ingest a file, they create a CAS address at the application level, not the archive level. As a result, the application is the only thing that knows how to find that file.

"So, let's say down the line you want to change your application, or your archive system is growing old and you want to upgrade it and create a new one, then you must migrate that data off the old system," Woolery said.

"The problem is, you have to migrate it off, but you have to do it back through the old application-or you orphan the data. Let's say it's an e-mail database [such as Exchange]. So that means that while you're backing it out during that migration, that e-mail application will not be able to be used by the company."

And we're usually talking about a lot of objects, especially when it comes to e-mail.

"This will take longer than hours," Woolery said. "It could take days. Can you afford to have your e-mail app down for days? It's not possible. What if you're a hospital with lots of image files, which are big files? Due to HIPAA regulations, these files must be kept for seven years. That's a huge amount of data to migrate, and that's why it's so difficult. Vendors won't tell you this ahead of time."

Dirty Little Secret No. 5: Energy efficiency. Not the best in most archive systems.

Since archiving systems usually have one database running across all the system disk drives, it is very difficult to be energy-efficient.

"If you request one file in the archive and it's on one disk, you will have to spin up every single disk in that system to get that one file," Woolery said.

"If you have 100 disks and there's one small file you need to access, or a diagnostic you need to perform, they all spin up if you have a single database. Whether it's a large, robust DB or a small one, it still requires spinning up all 100 disks."

Seems like something the archive industry should be trying to remedy, don't you think? In fact, all five of these issues perhaps should be researched a little closer.


Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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