Thursday, 8 June 2006

Intellectual Property

A while back I talked about the size increase in hard disk drives. We see disks growing at Moore's Law rates, predicting a doubling of size every 18 months to 2 years. EMC proclaim a petabyte of storage within a single storage subsystem. But what does that actually mean?

Imagine an average page of text, around 600 words and 3000 characters. Multiply that up to a book of 300 pages, that's around 900KB to store natively, but say 5MB with formatting. So, 1 Petabyte could store 215 million books - more than the entire collection of the British Library!

OK, this is hardly a scientific example, however what it does show is the amount of intellectual capital that exists in a single disk subsystem and therefore the subsequent responsibility on storage managers and storage architects to protect and provide timely access to this data.

How can we do this?

Within the subsystem itself we can guard against hardware failure with resiliency - RAID5/6, redundant components, multiple power sources - and picking a trusted vendor with a track record in producing solid products.

Outside the subsystem, we can prevent loss due to more catastrophic reasons by remote replication of data to another datacentre which could be located near or a long distance away. It is possible to take multiple replicas to be completely sure.

To prevent against data corruption rather than equipment failure, we can take regular backups - these could be snapshots on disk or tape based backups secured offsite.

So there are lots of options. The starting point however should always be to evaluate the value of the data to be secured and to base investment in data protection on the value of that data. Don't bother synchronously replicating data which will be discarded and never reused or which can easily be recreated (for example User Test Data). Conversely, use replication and snapshot technologies on production databases used to deliver key company services.

Remember that data is any company's intellectual capital and it is our responsibility to ensure its safety.

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