Guest post by Monique Shefer.
The way we work, play and interact has changed radically in the last decade. These changes are reflected in the rise of user created content, the ubiquitous use of software as a service and the growth of cloud storage. These things are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. They mark the beginning of a tremendous change in the way we use the Internet, our relationship to digital information and the speed at which we produce and accumulate monumental amounts of data.
People are already storing more than just their email in the cloud. Many of us already use services like Flickr or Photobucket to store our photos, YouTube or Vimeo to host our videos and Google to share and store contacts, documents and calendars. With the upcoming introduction of the new Apple iCloud, it will quickly become normal to store your digital books, movies and music in the cloud. Legal, medical and school records are already moving to the cloud in order to meet stringent legislation requiring that they be stored more or less indefinitely.
This data represents a great deal of personal and professional value. These collections, memories and resources do not generally diminish in value over time – I can’t imagine ever deciding to delete photos of my childhood, I would never want to lose my music or video collection and I generally prefer to keep all my emails and bookmarks.
Data permanence is already an unspoken expectation; we assume that we will have access to our data indefinitely. What’s more these sentiments are only going to become more common as kids raised with iPods in their hands grow to expect this kind of accessibility and consistency from all their data… forever.
What this implies is that data is going to have to live forever.
Now pause for a sanity check for a moment: Let’s consider that most data centers are designed to live for no more than 10 years. Conventional wisdom says that all of the storage hardware in a storage system needs to be of a consistent brand and technology – so as existing hardware becomes obsolete or is even discontinued, the whole system ceases to be viable.
If you want the data to live on, beyond the life of its data center you would need to undertake a massive migration. The catch is that large scale migrations are hugely expensive and tremendously risky for your data. (As storage drives get bigger the migration times quickly increase to weeks or even months, and the risk of read / write failures become so extreme as to make mass migrations like this almost impossible).
What’s more, it’s complex and expensive for data centers to scale to the sizes we are talking about here, and the associated risks only increase if it has to be done quickly and repeatedly. (With lots of very boring and repetitive manual tasks that systems administrators hate).
Given that the “perma-cloud” is a relatively new phenomenon, these implicit limitations have not really become urgent concerns yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
If data centers are going to meet this need, it’s logical that they are going to require significant changes in their cloud storage infrastructure. Existing service providers are already facing the challenges associated with completely unprecedented demands for scalable processing power, bandwidth and data storage. Some like Google have been forced to innovate beyond traditional technologies, to break paradigms in order to stay ahead of this tide.
Today traditional technologies still prevail, particularly in storage infrastructure. People generally don’t like the change – even technologists shy from the risks associated with radical innovation. But change is coming whether or not we embrace it. Of course those that fail to adopt radically new infrastructure will ultimately face the consequences.
The smart bet is on an innovative new storage technology that can scale fast enough to keep ahead of the wave. Case studies indicate that RING Organic Storage allows data storage systems to evolve and so to persist. Most significantly, it allows system administrators to mix and match storage hardware, to add or remove servers without interrupting the rest of the system, and so enable data centers to refresh and upgrade hardware whenever it is most cost effective and appropriate.
So when data centers are dealing with petabytes or even exerbytes of data, RING Organic Storage allows them to scale, to evolve and to stay fresh – protecting data from system and hardware obsolescence, and keeping it alive forever.
This was a guest post by Monique Shefer who is a technology analyst and strategic consultant to the software and software as service industries. Shefer is currently working for Scality – Storage System Pioneer and developer of RING Organic Storage.