SmartAdvice: Five Main IT Categories To Evaluate In Companies You Might Buy - InformationWeek

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11/23/2004
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SmartAdvice: Five Main IT Categories To Evaluate In Companies You Might Buy

There are some basic IT functions, from tech plans to an inventory of products, to consider when your company is deciding whether to buy another, The Advisory Council says. Also, weigh the cost of backing information up against the cost of lost business in deciding on a data backup plan; and look at your company's software-development processes when deciding whether to move immediately to the new CMMI.

Question B: What backup technologies would you recommend for a data center with 100 terabytes of data?

Our advice: There's no question that backup technologies haven't kept up with companies' seemingly insatiable demand for data. In combination with the increased pressure to maintain 24-by-7 application availability, the window of downtime available for backup and maintenance is rapidly being eliminated.

  • View the problem from the perspective of data protection and recovery rather than backup
  • Weigh the data-protection expenditures against the potential loss-of-business costs
  • Current technology must overcome bandwidth limitations, disk capacity, and recovery speed
  • Hardware costs are still high for large-capacity systems
  • Look at clustering technology that offers continuous data-synchronization and fail-over options
  • Provide redundancy with both on- and off-site storage for full business continuity


Related Links

Distributed Data Compounds Storage and Recovery Challenges

StorServer Ships Largest Capacity Enterprise Backup Appliance on the Market

IBM unveils 'smart' storage options


If you only think of the problem from the perspective of how to backup such a large amount of data, you can easily go down the rat-hole of purchasing massive amounts of tape backup capacity, and not achieve the ultimate objective--ensuring mission-critical data is available or easily retrievable when disaster strikes. Instead of thinking about how to solve the backup problem, use an alternate paradigm of data protection and recovery. What data is critically important, and how much are you willing to spend to make sure it's highly available? You can then create recovery strategies that enable you to access your data wherever it's located, and however much you have.

The issues to solve are bandwidth, disk capacity, and recovery speed. Even with the latest technology, data transfer takes time. The most obvious method of protecting the data center is to build fully redundant systems clusters and deploy SAN (storage area network) devices. These are good options, but they're expensive and they don't solve the offsite and archive problem. Getting the data offsite can be a major headache; even using gigabit-per-second switches, you can only stuff so much down a network pipe. There's been some work on improving the algorithms for syncing data to minimize the amount that needs to be transferred, which helps with syncing the off-sites and hot fail-over systems.

Looking at the current available technology for protecting such massive amounts of data, there are huge tape-archive systems with hundreds or thousands of tapes, but with the latest petabyte tape systems, the technology is already close to the limits in terms of recovery speed and data management. The limits of disk capacity also cause problems. The industry is impatiently waiting for long-promised higher-density and -speed disks--15,000 RPM disks are coming onto the market, but it's unclear how much faster disks can go.

The technology to fully protect petabytes of data at a reasonable cost isn't quite here yet. In the meantime, be prepared to spend large amounts on clusters and SAN devices. The option of a redundant hot fail-over data center might seem costly, but put in terms of business continuity, it could be the best option.

-- Beth Cohen

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