Astronomers searching for life outside of our solar system speak of The Goldilocks Zone – the region around a star where conditions are suitable for sustaining life: not too close and hot, and not too distant and cold. Initially these “just right” conditions appeared to be almost impossibly rare, but researchers over the years have found organisms that can exist in more conditions than previously imagined. It turns out that the Goldilocks Zone is wider than we thought, increasing the possibility of finding other planets capable of sustaining life.

Today a similar recognition is happening in data centers. While IT has long thought of data storage as “hot” and requiring immediate access in flash memory or primary disk, or “cold” and suitable for backup and archive to tape, there weren’t many choices for a “warm” tier of data that required a more nuanced cost/latency balance. The expanding range of choices such as public and private cloud, object storage and LTFS tape has in effect created a wider Goldilocks Zone for data centers. The refreshed thinking about the capabilities of both established and emerging technologies for these different tiers of storage has been getting a lot of attention lately.

ESG’s Jason Buffington is very much in synch with a tiered view of data protection. In a recentvideo blog, he asserts that every data protection architecture should be a “hybrid” of disk, cloud, and tape. He discusses the strengths of each tier, explaining how each fills a specific gap in the storage infrastructure. “Tape isn’t the four letter word you think it is,” he jokes.

The Economist recently wrote about the indispensable role tape plays in long-term retention for big data environments, focusing on Quantum customer CERN. The article describes CERN’s hierarchy of hot, lukewarm, and cold data, and their approach to each. Commenting on the article, Quantum’s Mark Pastor notes “Advances I see that can really help the lukewarm part of the equation is so called ‘next-gen’ object storage which is disk-based storage that in some cases comes with extreme data resiliency technologies like erasure coding.”

In his own Data Center Post article, Pastor makes the case for an active archive tier for data that is not actively changing but may have ongoing business value. He notes “The old-school paradigm of buying more primary storage to keep up with today’s data explosion is unsustainable.”

Both the volume and nature of data is evolving, so it’s a good thing there are more “just right” choices available to accommodate it.

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