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The Path to Intelligent File Management



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January 27, 2010 3:46 am

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I just start cooking inside when I hear someone say, “hey storage is cheap.”

Certainly the purchase price of media continues to drop. I’ve watched 1TB SATA drives fall by $50 in 4 months to below $100 regularly. Even the new solid state drives (SSD) prices are falling. But it’s illusory to say that files are cheap. As a CIO I respect greatly said to me last year, “it costs virtually nothing to create a file, but it costs a fortune to find it and manage it for the rest of its life.” He’s right of course, but there is a solution to the problem.

In the classical sense, a user creates a file by saving something somewhere. Sometimes that’s a local store, but in the enterprise we would prefer to see files stored in a repository that is managed, backed up and appropriately redundant. And for the most part that works just fine. It’s not enough.

Files are created by people, and most decent file systems have sufficient attribute level controls to identify the owner, the creation date, the modification date and other important metadata. So why not leverage that information and create a linkage of the file to the owner in the enterprise directory, to a role that “owns” the file and its directory structure, to its location and tree. This isn’t hard, for us at least. Our Novell File Management Suite starts the process of intelligent file management by injecting the power of identity management into file management. So now, not only can we leverage the power of identity management and provisioning to simplify management and gain more control over file management, we also increase flexibility by making it incredible simple to move or redirect or reassign files throughout the lifecycle of the user, the group or the role. Excellent process and step one. Oh, and make this work whether the customer’s file framework is a Novell estate, a pure Microsoft estate, or the most common scenario – the heterogeneous environment.

Step two is to maximize the value of the storage systems already in place. We acquire storage incrementally, and only decommission old storage when it dies, gets too small for the content application, or reaches the magic MTBF (mean time before failure) number when we know we roll the dice on every write or read. What happens then is that we end up with files in multiple locations, or keep moving old junk to our newest and most expensive disks. There’s some pretty interesting data that suggests that on average, a file of unstructured data, such as documents, spreadsheets etc., is accessed once in the fourteen days after save and never again after thirty days. Certainly there are exceptions, but industry pros continue to cite the familiar 80/20 rule, where 80% of files are stale or unchanged. Why not put those older files or unchanging files that we cannot delete to less expensive storage and get them out of our backup stream. Now some folks chime in here and say “we use differential backups so this isn’t a factor” There is always some kind of scan or table that defines whether a file has changed or not. If the file isn’t there at all, we save time. But, there’s a huge problem. If by moving the file we cause ANY change in the way that the user interacts with the file, our best case is that all we get is another help desk call. Fortunately, Dynamic File Services, part of Novell File Management Suite, provides for policy based control of file storage tiering without any change in the user experience whatsoever. And as you should expect, we do this for Novell, Microsoft and mixed estates.

The last piece is communication. If you’ve ever received an email that says something like “less than 5% available file handles on LUN 2″ you clearly understand the problem. A message like that makes great sense to a storage management professional but may as well be Glagolitic to a business unit leader or user. The ability for IT to act as a Service Provider to the business requires both powerful reporting, and reports that real people can understand. Reports that business leaders, team leaders, managers and groups can act upon.

Only when you bring all three pieces together can you deliver Intelligent File Management. We’re here to help with a solution that works for you right now, across your file management needs. For more information, please click on this link. The Novell File Management Suite

Until next time, peace.

Ross

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