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Over the past couple of weeks there has been a flurry of IT industry activity around data footprint impact reduction with Dell buying Ocarina and IBM acquiring Storwize. For those who want the quick (compacted, reduced) synopsis of what Dell buying Ocarina as well as IBM acquiring Storwize means read this post here along with some of my comments here and here.

Now, before any Drs or Divas of Dedupe get concerned and feel the need to debate dedupes expanding role, success or applicability, relax, take a deep breath, then read on and take another breath before responding if so inclined.

The reason I mention this is that some may mistake this as a piece against or not in favor of dedupe as it talks about life beyond dedupe which could be mistaken as indicating dedupes diminished role which is not the case (read ahead and see figure 5 to see the bigger picture).

Likewise some might feel that since this piece talks about archiving for compliance and non regulatory situations along with compression, data management and other forms of data footprint reduction they may be compelled to defend dedupes honor and future role.

Again, relax, take a deep breath and read on, this is not about the death of dedupe.

Now for others, you might wonder why the dedupe tongue in check humor mentioned above (which is what it is) and the answer is quite simple. The industry in general is drunk on dedupe and in some cases thus having numbed its senses not to mention having blurred its vision of the even bigger opportunities for the business benefits of data footprint reduction beyond todays backup centric or vmware server virtualization dedupe discussions.

Likewise, it is time for the industry to wake (or sober) up and instead of trying to stuff everything under or into the narrowly focused dedupe bottle. Instead, realize that there is a broader umbrella called data footprint impact reduction which includes among other techniques, dedupe, archive, compression, data management, data deletion and thin provisioning across all types of data and applications. What this means is a broader opportunity or market than what exists or being discussed today leveraging different techniques, technologies and best practices.

Consequently this piece is about expanding the discussion to the larger opportunity for vendors or vars to extend their focus to the bigger world of overall data footprint impact reduction beyond where currently focused. Likewise, this is about IT customers realizing that there are more opportunities to address data and storage optimization across your entire organization using various techniques instead of just focusing on backup.

In other words, there is a very bright future for dedupe as well as other techniques and technologies that fall under the data footprint reduction umbrella including data stored online, offline, near line, primary, secondary, tertiary, virtual and in a public or private cloud..

Before going further however lets take a step back and look at some business along with IT issues, challenges and opportunities.

What is the business and IT issue or challenge?
Given that there is no such thing as a data or information recession shown in figure 1, IT organizations of all size are faced with the constant demand to store more data, including multiple copies of the same or similar data, for longer periods of time.


Figure 1: IT resource demand growth continues

The result is an expanding data footprint, increased IT expenses, both capital and operational, due to additional Infrastructure Resource Management (IRM) activities to sustain given levels of application Quality of Service (QoS) delivery shown in figure 2.

Some common IT costs associated with supporting an increased data footprint include among others:

  • Data storage hardware and management software tools acquisition
  • Associated networking or IO connectivity hardware, software and services
  • Recurring maintenance and software renewal fees
  • Facilities fees for floor space, power and cooling along with IT staffing
  • Physical and logical security for data and IT resources
  • Data protection for HA, BC or DR including backup, replication and archiving


Figure 2: IT Resources and cost balancing conflicts and opportunities

Figure 2 shows the result is that IT organizations of all size are faced with having to do more with what they have or with less including maximizing available resources. In addition, IT organizations often have to overcome common footprint constraints (available power, cooling, floor space, server, storage and networking resources, management, budgets, and IT staffing) while supporting business growth.

Figure 2 also shows that to support demand, more resources are needed (real or virtual) in a denser footprint, while maintaining or enhancing QoS plus lowering per unit resource cost. The trick is improving on available resources while maintaining QoS in a cost effective manner. By comparison, traditionally if costs are reduced, one of the other curves (amount of resources or QoS) are often negatively impacted and vice versa. Meanwhile in other situations the result can be moving problems around that later resurface elsewhere. Instead, find, identify, diagnose and prescribe the applicable treatment or form of data footprint reduction or other IT IRM technology, technique or best practices to cure the ailment.

What is driving the expanding data footprint?
Granted more data can be stored in the same or smaller physical footprint than in the past, thus requiring less power and cooling per Gbyte, Tbyte or PByte. Data growth rates necessary to sustain business activity, enhanced IT service delivery and enable new applications are placing continued demands to move, protect, preserve, store and serve data for longer periods of time.

The popularity of rich media and Internet based applications has resulted in explosive growth of unstructured file data requiring new and more scalable storage solutions. Unstructured data includes spreadsheets, Power Point, slide decks, Adobe PDF and word documents, web pages, video and audio JPEG, MP3 and MP4 files. This trend towards increasing data storage requirements does not appear to be slowing anytime soon for organizations of all sizes.

After all, there is no such thing as a data or information recession!

Changing data access lifecycles
Many strategies or marketing stories are built around the premise that shortly after data is created data is seldom, if ever accessed again. The traditional transactional model lends itself to what has become known as information lifecycle management (ILM) where data can and should be archived or moved to lower cost, lower performing, and high density storage or even deleted where possible.

Figure 3 shows as an example on the left side of the diagram the traditional transactional data lifecycle with data being created and then going dormant. The amount of dormant data will vary by the type and size of an organization along with application mix.


Figure 3: Changing access and data lifecycle patterns

However, unlike the transactional data lifecycle models where data can be removed after a period of time, Web 2.0 and related data needs to remain online and readily accessible. Unlike traditional data lifecycles where data goes dormant after a period of time, on the right side of figure 3, data is created and then accessed on an intermittent basis with variable frequency. The frequency between periods of inactivity could be hours, days, weeks or months and, in some cases, there may be sustained periods of activity.

A common example is a video or some other content that gets created and posted to a web site or social networking site such as Face book, Linked in, or You Tube among others. Once the content is discussed, while it may not change, additional comment and collaborative data can be wrapped around the data as additional viewers discover and comment on the content. Solution approaches for the new category and data lifecycle model include low cost, relative good performing high capacity storage such as clustered bulk storage as well as leveraging different forms of data footprint reduction techniques.

Given that a large (and growing) percentage of new data is unstructured, NAS based storage solutions including clustered, bulk, cloud and managed service offerings with file based access are gaining in popularity. To reduce cost along with support increased business demands (figure 2), a growing trend is to utilize clustered, scale out and bulk NAS file systems that support NFS, CIFS for concurrent large and small IOs as well as optionally pNFS for large parallel access of files. These solutions are also increasingly being deployed with either built in or add on accessorized data footprint reduction techniques including archive, policy management, dedupe and compression among others.

What is your data footprint impact?
Your data footprint impact is the total data storage needed to support your various business application and information needs. Your data footprint may be larger than how much actual data storage you have as seen in figure 4. In Figure 4, an example is an organization that has 20TBytes of storage space allocated and being used for databases, email, home directories, shared documents, engineering documents, financial and other data in different formats (structured and unstructured) not to mention varying access patterns.


Figure 4: Expanding data footprint due to data proliferation and copies being retained

Of the 20TBytes of data allocated and used, it is very likely that the consumed storage space is not 100 percent used. Database tables may be sparsely (empty or not fully) allocated and there is likely duplicate data in email and other shared documents or folders. Additionally, of the 20TBytes, 10TBytes are duplicated to three different areas on a regular basis for application testing, training and business analysis and reporting purposes.

The overall data footprint is the total amount of data including all copies plus the additional storage required for supporting that data such as extra disks for Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) protection or remote mirroring.

In this overly simplified example, the data footprint and subsequent storage requirement are several times that of the 20TBytes of data. Consequently, the larger the data footprint the more data storage capacity and performance bandwidth needed, not to mention being managed, protected and housed (powered, cooled, situated in a rack or cabinet on a floor somewhere).

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More Stories By Greg Schulz

Greg Schulz is founder of the Server and StorageIO (StorageIO) Group, an IT industry analyst and consultancy firm. Greg has worked with various server operating systems along with storage and networking software tools, hardware and services. Greg has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, and storage and capacity planner for various IT organizations. He has worked for various vendors before joining an industry analyst firm and later forming StorageIO.

In addition to his analyst and consulting research duties, Schulz has published over a thousand articles, tips, reports and white papers and is a sought after popular speaker at events around the world. Greg is also author of the books Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier) and The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC). His blog is at www.storageioblog.com and he can also be found on twitter @storageio.