Magazine Article | January 1, 2002

A Common Sense Solution

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Throwing more hardware at growing databases is a temporary and ineffective solution. Active archiving is a new approach to a common enterprise problem.

Integrated Solutions, January 2002

The information age is still in its infancy, yet enterprise databases are growing at unparalleled rates - as much as 40% annually according to META Group. The initial effects are already staggering when you consider that growing databases degrade performance, reduce system availability, and can seriously limit data access. In short, database growth represents a significant problem that can have adverse effects on business survival in an extremely competitive global market.

The traditional reflex response to database growth is to add more muscle by increasing capacity and upgrading hardware and software - both are significantly costly and archaic solutions. The domestic equivalent of this approach would be to buy file cabinets to store all your personal and financial data over the course of your entire life. This analogy applies in the business world, except the total cost of ownership and consequences are far greater.

Managing Your Most Valuable Asset
With exponential data growth expected to continue for decades, companies are realizing the impact and are actively searching for solutions. Typically, when a problem of global proportions emerges, several paradigms for solving that problem will evolve and will be popular as long as they solve the problem. The best solution works so well that the original problem no longer exists. Since data is a company's most valuable asset, the ideal solution should allow it to manage that asset intelligently, solve data growth issues for the long term, and deliver the greatest ROI. These characteristics are lacking in many data storage solutions because they are typically tactical solutions to a strategic problem.

Intelligence Access Is Critical
Ironically, the newest paradigm for managing expansive database growth - active archiving - applies a familiar concept but adds an intelligent twist. In the traditional storage context, companies believed that archiving was useful only if they never expected to need that data again. This concept prevailed because of the inherent difficulty in researching and restoring archived data. However, the introduction of active archiving is changing the way companies think about archiving.

With active archiving, infrequently used data (reference data) can be "set aside" or safely removed from an overloaded database and still be close at hand (active). Operational and mission-critical data remains in the production database, available at peak performance, while active reference data is easy to research and selectively restore when needed. The data can be stored on the most convenient storage medium and be readily accessible.

Active archiving represents a major advance because it preserves the business context of the archived data while keeping that data available for continued use. For example, a credit card company acquires volumes of transactional data for credit card customers. The credit card company needs its mission-critical information on a continuing basis - names, addresses, account numbers, interest rates, and balances - but once a monthly bill is issued, it does not need the detailed transactional data unless there is a question about a bill. The credit card company can save that monthly transactional data to an active archive and recall it later as needed.

The Perfect Complement to SAN, NAS
By using an ongoing active archiving strategy, a company can safely store its active reference data and continue to archive data on a regular basis. In addition, active archiving complements and enhances other storage solutions, from storage area networks (SANs) and network attached storage (NAS) to hierarchical storage management (HSM) and virtual tape systems (VTSs). The real beauty of the active archiving solution is its simplicity over time as it becomes integrated into standard routine operations. Thus, response time is faster, service levels are maintained, and performance and availability improve.

As with any new paradigm, it takes some time for companies to move from a traditional solution to a new one that offers more promise. As stated earlier, the ideal solution should allow companies to manage their data intelligently, solve the data growth issues for the long term, and deliver the ROI. Active archiving is the next generation paradigm for solving the problem of explosive database growth. Less expensive and more effective than just adding capacity and more intelligent than just storing data, active archiving provides a long-term solution that can stand the test of time. Companies that recognize this paradigm shift as an opportunity will ensure their ROI and gain a competitive advantage.