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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why upgrade, when 90% of data is untouched?

According to a study partly done by the good folks at NetApp, "most data in enterprise networks rarely gets accessed" If this is the case , why should a customer put these rarely accessed files on the newest storage array? That is the question many storage administrators are asking themselves after they hear the latest FUD filled presentation from their OEM storage sales person.


"Statistically speaking, most data on enterprise networks rarely gets accessed after it is written to network storage, according to researchers from NetApp Inc. and the University of California. Evidently, we are too busy writing new data to go back over old data.

Andrew Leung, a computer science researcher at the University of California, presented the findings at the USENIX conference in Boston last week. Given those results, organizations might want to consider moving much of their data to slower but less expensive storage units since it rarely gets accessed, he said."

Often when customers review their storage access patterns they see that maximizing their old arrays is the cheapest way to keep these rarely accessed files on line, which is reinforced by this study.

"The team studied the traffic that flowed through NetApp's enterprise file servers, which manage more than 22T of material relating to all aspects of the company's business operations.

Leung said the study is the first large-scale examination of network traffic patterns. "How people have been deploying network file systems has been changing over the past five to 10 years,” he said. “They are being used more commonly for different kinds of things. So what we would like to know is how this affects the workloads of the network."

During the three-month period that the network was under scrutiny, more than 90 percent of the material on the servers was never accessed. The researchers captured packets encoded using the Common Internet File System protocol, which Microsoft Windows applications use to save data via a network. About 1.5T of data was transferred.

"Compared to the full amount of allocated storage on the file servers, this represents only 10 percent of data," Leung said. “[This] means that 90 percent of the data is untouched during this three-month period.”


In a tight budget environment a little storage analysis can go a long way toward saving your company money while keeping your highly accessed storage highly available. If you are only migrating your highly accessed data to the newest storage array you may be able to buy a smaller system. Maintaining rarely touched data on your older storage arrays makes sense to everyone but the commission based sales force selling you the new equipment. How much does it cost your company to migrate and maintain rarely touched data onto new equipment? How much does it cost to only migrate highly accessed data to the new storage array? How much money can we save by buying a smaller system? Asking yourself these questions can save a lot of money for your IT department.

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