OK, perhaps not as colorful as Shakespeare’s original phrase, but in today’s world of data and content proliferation the term archive has suffered tremendous abuse and misunderstanding. This would not be a problem for the reader if vendors and marketers of storage technology products and solutions did a better job of steering the marketplace with well-defined terms that truly meant what they sounded like.
Backup and Archive Revisited
Yes, the terms central to this discussion are Backup and Archive. The problem in the semantics of these terms is understood by industry observers as noted in this recent blog from Randy Kerns of The Evaluator Group. To further the point, Quantum’s Artico Intelligent Archive Appliance was just named a finalist in the backup hardware category of Storage Magazine Product of the Year Awards. Why is an Archive solution highlighted in a backup hardware contest?
While the hype of backup and archive convergence has dwindled, the confusion about the relationship and the differences between the two have become even more pronounced, because dealing with the long term retention (or archive) of explosive amounts of data has become a pervasive issue in IT across all industries.
In his blog, Randy argues correctly that many believe archive is a place where data goes to die. Some businesses that retain (or archive) data for compliance purposes, the archive data is not retained for work value and it is often typically just a copy of the backup job. So it is easy to see how archive gained this cadaverous reputation.
Archive Solutions Are Misunderstood
Because of this historical perspective, when IT is looking for solutions that provide active access to data, they steer away from solutions that are called archive, because archive means the death of data. And when companies need to retain data for a long time, they lean toward familiar backup applications because these are traditionally the easiest way to take advantage of technologies like tape and cloud.
In this century, where data is proliferating exponentially all around us, and analysis and creative processes are finding more ways to capitalize on content created in the past rather than just today, no one wants to vault data with that much potential value. Neither does anyone want to rely on a copy of a backup job for data that may be a potential asset. Today’s intelligent and creative businesses are striving to find better ways to breathe life into their data, and to make it broadly available to knowledge workers, creative developers, and intelligent processes. Consistent with Randy’s discussion, I would argue that in many cases archive is a place where data goes to live.
Active Access Does Not Preclude Using Archive Solutions
A new place for data to live is needed because users cannot afford to keep buying more of the same expensive storage they buy for primary storage when they want the high availability of file-based data.
What users can usually tradeoff for lower cost primary storage is some performance. As the data is stored for its next use, it doesn’t need to sit on expensive high performance storage intended for editing or analysis. It is OK if this data takes a few more milliseconds to access. But what users cannot tradeoff is data durability and accessibility. This older data must still be protected against component failure and site disaster, while remaining actively accessible.
The great news is solutions like Quantum’s Artico do a great job of making large pools of retained (archive) data, highly accessible to users, while protecting that data as well as primary storage processes do, and at costs substantially lower than primary storage, showing tremendous ROI.
Because data protection is such an integral part of retaining data over the long haul, Quantum’s new Artico NAS archive storage solution was recognized as a finalist in this year’s Storage Magazine Product of the Year award in the Backup Hardware category! That is how an archive solution gets recognized in the backup category.
Artico is NAS attached disk with an extremely robust policy engine where users can easily create policies for data that define when and where data will be migrated over time to other storage tiers such as public cloud via Q-Cloud Archive and Vault (Amazon S3 and Glacier respectively), object storage (private cloud) and tape libraries for durability, access and cost benefits. These policies can also define how data should be protected on these various storage tiers.
The bottom line of this discussion is: today’s archive solutions are where data goes to live, and these new low-cost storage solutions must integrate protection and accessibility features every bit as much as primary storage solutions do.