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Breaking The Capacity Addiction

One of the complaints I hear about the new Apple iPad is that it does not have enough storage capacity, with high end units only offering 64GBs of storage. As a storage guy from the 5MB hard drive days, this reaction sometimes makes me shake my head in dismay.
One of the complaints I hear about the new Apple iPad is that it does not have enough storage capacity, with high end units only offering 64GBs of storage. As a storage guy from the 5MB hard drive days, this reaction sometimes makes me shake my head in dismay.Capacity addiction of course goes way beyond the consumer market and right into the heart of the enterprise. Breaking the capacity addiction can reduce everything: expenditures, power, cooling, floor space, DR needs...everything. The challenge is how do you do it.

Capacity demands are growing for a lot of reasons. First files are just bigger today than they were in the 5MB hard drive days. Second we retain information seemingly forever now for various reasons. Some of the reasons are very legitimate; retention legal needs or data re-use, but most data is being kept "just-in-case" the user needs it.

For example I have a presentation on our file server that is a few years old titled "The State of SSD". It has been updated a few times, saved as different files of course, in fact it needs to be updated again. (You can get the latest one here). I can assure you though that anything in that original presentation has long since been outdated. Yet I can't bring myself to delete it. I'm sure you have users and maybe even yourself that are the same way. And as a result we are now counting on suppliers to help us feed our capacity addition.

The capacity addition has lead to bigger hard drives. Its amazing how quickly we got to 2TB drives being almost commonplace. Even higher capacity drives seem to be slower in coming and at some point data centers will run out of places to put all those drives. In addition we started to use disk for more things. Disk-to-disk backup began to replace, or at least augment, tape for data protection. Disk archive began to replace optical as a storage medium for data that needed to be retained.

Both of these advances were of course helped by technologies like deduplication and compression which also help with our lack of space to put more disk drives issues. Then came the cloud, where for a small monthly fee we can have all the capacity we ever want, as long as we keep paying the monthly fee.

I'm not anti-disk. I'm an addict too. Disk has helped backup and recovery windows, allows people to be more aggressive when archiving something and when you really do have to go get that three year old State of SSD presentation its nice not to have to dig through a pile of tapes to find it.

Reality is I don't think the capacity addiction will ever be broken. Users and probably IT administrators are just not going to suddenly start deleting data. In the enterprise there are things you can do other than buying more capacity to better manage the data that you are probably going to end up keeping forever. Our next series of blogs will discuss Managing the Capacity Addiction.

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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.

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