Monday, 9 February 2009

The Storage Architect Has Moved!

I've decided to move the blog over to Wordpress and there's a new direct URL too; Please check me out in the new location. In addition, there's a new feed too; - the feedburner feed stays the same and redirects. Please update your bookmarks!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Personal Computing: The Whole Of Twitter In Your Hand

A quick check on Twitter this morning shows me they're up to message number 1,179,118,180 or just over the 1.1 billion mark. That's a pretty big number - or so it seems, but in the context of data storage devices, it's not that big. Let me explain...

Assume Twitter messages are all the full 140 characters long. That means, assuming all messages are being retained, that the whole of Twitter is approximately, 153GB in size. OK, so there will be data structures needed to store that data, plus space for all the user details, however I doubt whether the whole of Twitter exceeds 400GB. That fits comfortably on my Seagate FreeAgent Go!

If every message ever sent on Twitter can be stored on a single portable hard drive, then what on earth are we storing on the millions of hard drives that get sold each year?

I suspect the answer is simply that we don't know. The focus in data storage is to provide the facility to store more and more data, rather than rationalise what we do have. For example, a quick sweep of my hard drives (which I'm trying to do regularly) showed half a dozen copies of the Winzip installer, the Adobe Acrobat installer plus various other software products that are regularly updated, for example the 2.2.1 update of the iPhone software at 246MB!

What we need is (a) common sense standards for how we store our data (I'm working on those), (b) better search and indexing functionality that can make decisons based on the content of files - like the automated deletion of defunct software installers.

There's also one other angle and that's when network speeds become so fast that storing a download is irrelevant. Then our data can all be cloud-based and data cleansing becomes a value add service and someone else's problem!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Enterprise Computing: Seagate Announces new Constellation Hard Drives

Seagate announced this week the release of their new Constellation hard drives. Compared to the Savvio range (which are high-performance, low form-factor), these drives are aimed at lower tier archiving solutions and will scale to 2TB.

I had a briefing on these drives a couple of weeks ago and there's the usual capacity and performance increase metrics to drool over (let's face it, who doesn't want a 2TB drive), however, impressive as it is, pure capacity increases don't cut it any more for me. What's more relevant are the other less obvious features.

Power Reduction

With PowerTrim, Seagate are claiming a 2.8W consumption (idle) for the 2.5" form-factor drive. This compares to 5.2W for the Savvio 10K 146GB - almost half. This reduction is relevant not just for the power saving, but for the benefits in reduced cooling requirements and consequently the ability to stack more of these drives in a small space.

Constellation also provides PowerChoice, which will allow drives to be progressively spun down to reduce power. I've included a couple of graphics courtesy of Seagate which show the benefits of the different power-down levels.

In a previous discussion with COPAN, they indicated to me that their power-down solution had seen an increase in the life of hard drives, so I would expect Constellation to see the same benefits, although Seagate haven't indicated that.


Although encryption isn't new, what's good to see is that it is becoming a standard feature on enterprise drives and will be available on SAS Constellation drives later this year (Seagate Secure SED).

Security breaches are unacceptable; destroying soft-fail drives because they can't be recycled with "sensitive" material on them is also irresponsible. Hopefully encryption can tackle both issues head-on.
So where and how will these drives be used? Well, I hope the major vendors are looking to bring out 2.5" form-factor products and potentially blended products as well. It's not unreasonable to expect these guys to be using 2.5" drives to make their products lighter and more efficient. Also, for modular and monolithic arrays, exchangable canisters or enclosures could easily allow 2.5" drives to be incorporated into existing hardware.
Oh and before anyone comments, yes I am aware that the "multiple supplier" argument will be used as an excuse not to adopt this technology...
Of course, we shouldn't forget the underlying reason why we've reached the position of 2TB in a single drive - we are keeping too much data. We all need to pay as much attention to optimising our existing assets as we do to installing new and shiny ones.