CanadianCIO’s latest executive roundtable looks at the concept of “cold” data, “low impact” data and other strategies

Not all of the biggest issues around big data storage revolve around technology.

Questions about sovereignty, compliance and security practices loomed large at CanadianCIO’s executive roundtable on storage-as-a-service. As one participant put it at the Toronto event, effective storage is really about strategy, not just capacity.

“Storage is out of control, not only from a space perspective but also from a governance and management perspective. We’re probably keeping things way longer than we need to. And we don’t even know what (data) we have.”

Another guest explained how security, sovereignty and regulatory questions all combine to weigh heavily on his current data storage program.

“A significant part of my issue is that I’ve got data globally diversified but geographic restraints on where data can reside. I’ve got thousands of employees using consumer services like Dropbox and Google for storing (corporate) documents. And I have an insufficient data loss prevention infrastructure to help me account for that.”

Added to that laundry list of concerns is the question of cost.

Storage-as-a-service is one option for cost-conscious CIOs to consider because it’s a scalable, pay-as-you-go model that impacts opex vs capex, said Chris Flaesch, general manager of platform offerings at roundtable sponsor CSC and EMC.

“There’s been a change in mentality that’s really focused on (user) requirements. We really want to understand the IOPS (input/output operations per second) and latency you need. Then we give you a per gigabyte price for it,” said Flaesch. “We can scale it up or down. If you close a sales office in Ottawa, we just turn that off and you stop paying for it.”

Addressing concerns about storing data in a foreign jurisdiction, Flaesch said many providers offer various storage options (on-premise, off-premise or third-party data centres) either separately or combined, depending on the client’s needs and compliance issues. (CSC has two data centres in Canada.)

One participant from a major financial institution said his firm is already taking that strategic approach; it’s considering the cloud specifically to store “low impact” data and applications and archive older “cold” data.

We want to move our ‘hot’ apps onto solid state disk and move the stuff that’s basically ‘cold’ data down the stack to what we’ll call archive. We use (archiving) for regulatory compliance. But we’re moving towards automation, using various engines so we can auto-provision a server and storage based on the right characteristics.”

HD-quality photo and video content is undoubtedly boosting storage requirements. But non-technical elements like user demographics and behaviour might also play a role, said Jim Love, CIO of CanadianCIO’s parent firm, IT World Canada.

“There’s a generation gap. One of my younger co-workers doesn’t ever delete any of his e-mails. I asked him why and he said ‘Why bother?’ I come from a generation that managed storage. So the habits of people, in terms of what (data) they keep, make the old management tools we have irrelevant in there,” said Love.

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