Open Source Cloud Authors: David Paquette, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Peter Silva, John Mertic

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 Users can share, collaborate, and edit the file to their heart's content, but eventually the file is no longer current, and it becomes inactive.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 Today, it's an outdated strategy, and it's a costly strategy, one that few CIOs and budget-minded IT administrators feel particularly good about anymore.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
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, will be adding the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining sensor...
Intelligent machines are here. Robots, self-driving cars, drones, bots and many IoT devices are becoming smarter with Machine Learning. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Sudha Jamthe, CEO of IoTDisruptions.com, will discuss the next wave of business disruption at the junction of IoT and AI, impacting many industries and set to change our lives, work and world as we know it.
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, discussed the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filterin...
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their backend AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT - especially in the connected home and office. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Kocher, founder and managing director of Grey Heron, explained how Amazon is extending its reach to become a major force in IoT by building on its dominant cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strat...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Streamlyzer 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. Streamlyzer is a powerful analytics for video streaming service that enables video streaming providers to monitor and analyze QoE (Quality-of-Experience) from end-user devices in real time.
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Cloud based infrastructure deployment is becoming more and more appealing to customers, from Fortune 500 companies to SMEs due to its pay-as-you-go model. Enterprise storage vendors are able to reach out to these customers by integrating in cloud based deployments; this needs adaptability and interoperability of the products confirming to cloud standards such as OpenStack, CloudStack, or Azure. As compared to off the shelf commodity storage, enterprise storages by its reliability, high-availabil...
The IoT industry is now at a crossroads, between the fast-paced innovation of technologies and the pending mass adoption by global enterprises. The complexity of combining rapidly evolving technologies and the need to establish practices for market acceleration pose a strong challenge to global enterprises as well as IoT vendors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Smith, senior product manager for Numerex, will discuss how Numerex, as an experienced, established IoT provider, has embraced a ...
The Internet of Things (IoT), in all its myriad manifestations, has great potential. Much of that potential comes from the evolving data management and analytic (DMA) technologies and processes that allow us to gain insight from all of the IoT data that can be generated and gathered. This potential may never be met as those data sets are tied to specific industry verticals and single markets, with no clear way to use IoT data and sensor analytics to fulfill the hype being given the IoT today.
Donna Yasay, President of HomeGrid Forum, today discussed with a panel of technology peers how certification programs are at the forefront of interoperability, and the answer for vendors looking to keep up with today's growing industry for smart home innovation. "To ensure multi-vendor interoperability, accredited industry certification programs should be used for every product to provide credibility and quality assurance for retail and carrier based customers looking to add ever increasing num...
In the next forty months – just over three years – businesses will undergo extraordinary changes. The exponential growth of digitization and machine learning will see a step function change in how businesses create value, satisfy customers, and outperform their competition. In the next forty months companies will take the actions that will see them get to the next level of the game called Capitalism. Or they won’t – game over. The winners of today and tomorrow think differently, follow different...
“Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CloudBerry Backup is a leading cross-platform cloud backup and disaster recovery solution integrated with major public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, will discuss how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team a...