Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Ed Featherston, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, William Schmarzo, David Paquette

Related Topics: @BigDataExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo

@BigDataExpo: Article

The ‘A-ha’ About Active and Inactive Data

Despite advances in technology, the way we manage the growth in files has not changed much in the last decade or two

How many kinds of files are in use in your organization? Fifty? A hundred? More?

Wrong. There are only two kinds of files: active files and inactive files. (I admit it was a trick question.) Users create a file - a spreadsheet, an image, an invoice, etc. As long as the file is being worked with, it's an active file. Users can share, collaborate, and edit the file to their heart's content, but eventually the file is no longer current, and it becomes inactive.

But in this litigious and increasingly regulated world, there is no such thing as deleting a file. You're stuck with that inactive file, for years, if not forever, like your 30-year-old college dropout kid who still lives in the basement.

Despite advances in technology and a proliferation of alternatives, the way we manage the growth in files has not changed much in the last decade or two. We let the volume of files grow until it consumes all of the available resources, and then we throw money at the problem. Or we throw money at someone else who does essentially the same thing, just with cheaper disks.

Years ago, it was not a bad strategy. The majority of all files were active. The cost of having inactive files in the same pool was small. Today, it's an outdated strategy, and it's a costly strategy, one that few CIOs and budget-minded IT administrators feel particularly good about anymore. That's one positive side effect of the global economic recession: operations of all sizes, including Fortune 1000s and large government agencies, have much less tolerance for deferring a problem by throwing money at it.

It frankly makes no sense to spend thousands to millions of dollars on more and more primary storage to store obsolete or redundant files. It makes even less sense when we consider that runaway data growth is something of a myth when it comes to active files: in most organizations; the volume of active files - the files people create and use to do their jobs day in and day out - remains nearly fixed.

How can this be? Consider the way most workplaces operate. Your company pays its staff to work on different things this week than what they worked on last week or last month. Employees create new files for each new project, and their previous ones become inactive. In a typical organization, inactive data is responsible for data growth, not active data, whereas, the number of active files is proportional to the number of employees available to use them. For the most part, in three years, you'll have about the same number of active files as you have today, assuming you have the same headcount. Most companies add a few employees, let a few employees go, generate more files during the busy season, then fewer files during the lean times. In general, however, the number of users and the amount of active files will stay relatively constant. In this post melt-down economy, no one is hiring like there's no tomorrow. In fact, five-figure layoffs are still a common occurrence; they just don't make the news anymore.

If you've been in business for at least a few years, it's safe to assume two-thirds of your files are inactive. What's more, once saved to the network, 80 percent of your files will never even be looked at again.

Note that "looking at" an old file is not the same as "working on" an old file. An inactive file may be requested for research or reference purposes, but it won't be edited. When it reaches that stage of inactivity, it's in essence a read-only file. This means your inactive file data should be managed as a read-only archive - since the odds bet is read never, and the next best bet is read-only.

With these considerations in mind, purchasing additional primary storage to manage inactive file growth is unjustifiable, especially considering that storage operating costs can be five times the initial acquisition costs.

The growth of inactive files has an additional administrative cost when one adds on the constant cycle of backups. It's not unusual for an organization performing a standard weekly full backup, plus nightly incremental backups, to have 15, 20, even 25 copies of file data at any time. One of our customers, a multinational banking and financial services firm, was maintaining 28 copies of each file until we came in to provide relief.

Employing the same old backup tactics with online storage saves money on hardware, but does not address the core problem of file proliferation. Transferring inactive files to less costly archival storage media works well on paper, but not in practice. Both these methods suffer from inefficiencies and insecurities. Physically moving a petabyte of data can take months, and finding a file takes arduously long (if it's ever found at all; more than 60 percent of the time, it's not). This can spell the end of the business when a federal court judge comes around asking the company to produce a few thousand documents.

The real savings kick in when the typical file backup strategy is scrapped in favor of tiering, which is based on an online archive for inactive files. The key to achieving this is controlling and managing how and when files are moved - in other words, when a file becomes inactive.

The goal is to categorize data, properly manage it, and move the right data to the second tier to reduce costs, address compliance issues, and meet electronic discovery requirements. Granted, the cost, time, and complexity involved in scanning the entire file system and moving data to an archive can be onerous. However, event- and policy-driven software that automates these processes based on age, type, size or access frequency makes this a much smaller chore.

With this method, it's not unusual to see a two-thirds reduction in the cost of storing and protecting inactive files in the first year alone, and the savings accumulate as the inactive file load grows. One manufacturing customer calculated their first-year savings as 82 percent. Even if the initial costs of this tiered approach are twice as much as storage hardware (which seems unlikely), there would still be a savings as time goes by, since operating costs always exceed acquisition costs.

This second tier for inactive data can be maintained as a read-only archive, since it's very unlikely these files will be changed again. For example, an engineering firm may want to view the architectural plans from a project they did two years ago, but it's unlikely they would make any edits on that original file. This can deliver additional savings over time.

If no other message resonates, we hope we've at least established that traditional methods of accommodating data growth do not make sense when it's inactive, infrequently accessed, obsolete files that are typically responsible for that growth. Expensive primary storage, and the Sisyphean task of regular backups, will not solve the problem of inactive files.

More Stories By Bruce Backa

Bruce Backa, CEO of NTP Software®, a leader in File Data Management, is recognized as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum. Prior to founding NTP Software nearly 20 years ago, he held CTO positions at the international insurance and financial services firm AIG and the American Stock Exchange. He holds several U.S. and international patents related to data management, and was awarded the Kemeny Prize in Computing from Dartmouth College.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ReadyTalk, a leading provider of online conferencing and webinar services, has been named Vendor Presentation Sponsor at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ReadyTalk delivers audio and web conferencing services that inspire collaboration and enable the Future of Work for today’s increasingly digital and mobile workforce. By combining intuitive, innovative tec...
I'm a lonely sensor. I spend all day telling the world how I'm feeling, but none of the other sensors seem to care. I want to be connected. I want to build relationships with other sensors to be more useful for my human. I want my human to understand that when my friends next door are too hot for a while, I'll soon be flaming. And when all my friends go outside without me, I may be left behind. Don't just log my data; use the relationship graph. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Boyd, Engi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pulzze Systems will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Pulzze Systems, Inc. provides infrastructure products for the Internet of Things to enable any connected device and system to carry out matched operations without programming. For more information, visit http://www.pulzzesystems.com.
IoT offers a value of almost $4 trillion to the manufacturing industry through platforms that can improve margins, optimize operations & drive high performance work teams. By using IoT technologies as a foundation, manufacturing customers are integrating worker safety with manufacturing systems, driving deep collaboration and utilizing analytics to exponentially increased per-unit margins. However, as Benoit Lheureux, the VP for Research at Gartner points out, “IoT project implementers often ...
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
If you’re responsible for an application that depends on the data or functionality of various IoT endpoints – either sensors or devices – your brand reputation depends on the security, reliability, and compliance of its many integrated parts. If your application fails to deliver the expected business results, your customers and partners won't care if that failure stems from the code you developed or from a component that you integrated. What can you do to ensure that the endpoints work as expect...
As ridesharing competitors and enhanced services increase, notable changes are occurring in the transportation model. Despite the cost-effective means and flexibility of ridesharing, both drivers and users will need to be aware of the connected environment and how it will impact the ridesharing experience. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Timothy Evavold, Executive Director Automotive at Covisint, will discuss key challenges and solutions to powering a ride sharing and/or multimodal model in the a...
Is your aging software platform suffering from technical debt while the market changes and demands new solutions at a faster clip? It’s a bold move, but you might consider walking away from your core platform and starting fresh. ReadyTalk did exactly that. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and over a decade of audio conferencing product development to start an innovati...
WebRTC adoption has generated a wave of creative uses of communications and collaboration through websites, sales apps, customer care and business applications. As WebRTC has become more mainstream it has evolved to use cases beyond the original peer-to-peer case, which has led to a repeating requirement for interoperability with existing infrastructures. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Graham Holt, Executive Vice President of Daitan Group, will cover implementation examples that have enabled ea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Numerex Corp, a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Numerex Corp. (NASDAQ:NMRX) is a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). The Company's solutions produce new revenue streams or create operating...
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lea...
IoT is fundamentally transforming the auto industry, turning the vehicle into a hub for connected services, including safety, infotainment and usage-based insurance. Auto manufacturers – and businesses across all verticals – have built an entire ecosystem around the Connected Car, creating new customer touch points and revenue streams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Macario Namie, Head of IoT Strategy at Cisco Jasper, will share real-world examples of how IoT transforms the car from a static p...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...