Much of the messaging being applied to this space has been around litigation readiness and response. This market, often called eDiscovery, is certainly a viable market but not very compelling to the IT manager unless they are currently being sued. These systems however, if they could be scaled more efficiently, can offer storage managers and their users access to data in a manner that would allow it to be mined for value, which would put users in a new era of IT Discovery.
This could be as simple as knowing that a certain type of data exists in the environment but not being able to find it. In this scenario, a user typically recreates the data they need, as best they can, after spending the time to search for it. Imagine being able to find information, enterprise-wide, in seconds and then use that data for a new project. It could be a tremendous time saver for the individual user (not to mention the frustration) and a capacity saver for the system administrator.
Data as an asset can move beyond just time savings and become more of a problem solver. Solutions to how to solve a challenge that the organization needs to address may have already been tackled. Again, with an IT Discovery capability, that information could be found and leveraged when faced with the same problem in the future.
The challenge facing these systems is one of scale. The time it takes to inspect the environment and create an index is a real challenge for some of these systems. While many can add multiple nodes to improve performance, the amount of nodes needed for this indexing process may be prohibitive. An alternative is to leverage a process that is already in place and already moving data. For example CommVault (on its product) and Index Engines (across multiple backup products) essentially leverage the fact that the backup process is bringing the data across the network, and let the inspection tap into that data stream to perform its analysis.
In the future this analysis could be set on some other inline appliance like file virtualization or automated tiering systems. For eDiscovery to become IT Discovery scaling of the analysis needs to be addressed. The meta-data database that represents all the content stored in the enterprise must be able to be updated quickly, as a multi-day, or in some cases week long, index process is not going to work for the broader environment. IT Discovery needs the ability to refresh its information more often than that.
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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.