Technology -> Data Management
By: Julian Stuhler, Director, Triton Consulting Ltd
Published: 22nd January 2009
Copyright Triton Consulting Ltd © 2009
Drowning in data
As Information Technology becomes ever more prevalent in nearly every aspect of our lives, the amount of data generated and stored continues to grow at an astounding rate. According to IBM, worldwide data volumes are currently doubling every two years. IDC estimates that 45GB of data currently exists for each person on the planet: that's a mind-blowing 281 Billion Gigabytes (281 Exabytes) in total. While a mere 5% of that data will end up on Enterprise data servers, it is forecast to grow at a staggering 60% per year, resulting in 14 Exabytes of corporate data by 2011.
This article takes a look at some of the reasons behind this data explosion, and some of the possible effects if the growth is not managed. We'll also examine some of the ways in which these problems can be avoided.
A major trend over the last few years has seen many organisations implementing ERP and CRM solutions. This in turn has caused a dramatic increase in the amount of data we are storing about our customers, prospects, partners and suppliers.
Companies are also investing in ever more sophisticated business intelligence and analytics. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, the ability to base business decisions on solid, reliable and timely management information is becoming a key differentiator, but trend analysis can require very large amounts of historical data to be stored and managed.
The trend towards company consolidation is not a new one, but the current economic situation has inevitably resulted in a significant increase in the number of mergers and acquisitions. This is creating a huge increase in data volumes, with the associated data duplication and application retirement issues. Organisations are faced with not only managing all of their own data, both historic and current, but also this influx of additional data from other parties. Imagine the "data headache" of combining all of the ERP, CRM, Business Intelligence and Analytic systems from different organisations into one manageable enterprise system.
Corporate compliance legislation has had a major effect on how we use, store and maintain our data. The requirements placed on organisations by HIPPA, SOX, Basel ll and others mean that many companies are having to keep hold of more data, and for longer periods. Just as importantly, that retained data rapidly transforms from a corporate asset to a liability once the legal minimum retention period has expired, making it vital that such data can be accurately identified and deleted.
It is vital that organisations adhere to this legislation in order to avoid the cost of court appearances, heavy fines and the resultant damage to the brand.
New capabilities within the databases used to store corporate information are another major driver of data growth. For example, DB2 now supports XML and LOBs ("large objects" such as audio, video, images, etc). The ability to store this kind of data alongside more traditional structured information can be very useful, but can also have a huge impact on the overall size of the database.
Other technical trends that are contributing to database growth include storage of data in Unicode format (which can often expand overall database size by 10%–50% depending on the data), and duplication of databases due to replication requirements and/or backup strategies.
Finally, there's the perennial problem of removing old or obsolete data once it has reached the end of its useful life. Application data archiving is often considered as an optional extra, and even if it is included in the initial project plan it is often the first item to be postponed to a later release.
Effects of rapid data growth
This unprecedented growth in data volumes is having a significant effect on many organisations. Perhaps the most obvious impact is on operational costs. More staff time is required for routine maintenance and data-related exception handling such as out-of-space conditions and re-partitioning. As the database increases in size, so too does the CPU cost of running batch operations and routine housekeeping. Ongoing running costs also increase due to the additional disk space required and storage and processing capacity upgrades may be needed even though they often haven't been budgeted for.
Painful though they may be, increases in operational costs aren't the end of the story. What price can you place on customer satisfaction? Performance for critical application processes can degrade as data volumes increase, resulting in missed service level objectives. Teams across the whole organisation may be affected, with call centre staff unable to access the information they need quickly enough to satisfy customer demand.
"Far too many organisations accept database growth as a natural consequence of being in business and for too long have hidden the true cost behind the STORAGE IS CHEAP mantra", says Paul Garstang, IBM's UK Optim Manager. "In reality the cost implications can be enormous, reaching from simple infrastructure upgrades through to customer frustration and lost business opportunities. As we move into this new and challenging global climate it will be essential for companies to strip out unnecessary costs and expenditure. Proactively managing the size of production databases by archiving non current data on a daily basis, is a relatively straight forward solution, and one which delivers significant and ongoing cost savings."
Coping with the data explosion
Various coping strategies are available to address the issues associated with rapid data growth. Measures such as implementing database partitioning and data compression or purchasing extra CPU/DASD can help. However, these have their own costs there are many issues still remaining, including:
So, what are the alternatives?
Implement a data archiving strategy!
According to a recent Gartner report, "database archiving significantly lowers storage costs for primary storage by moving older data to less-costly storage". They go on to say "archiving reduces the size of primary storage, resulting in improved application performance and lower storage requirements for copies of the database for testing, backup and other purposes"
Also, you may think that archiving is only applicable to the largest of applications but in the same report Gartner state that "Performance and cost improvements can be sizeable, even with applications that have less than 200GB of data"
So, it would appear that a data archiving strategy is the best way for organisations to cope with growing data. Giving cost savings and improved application performance. However, once the need to archive has been agreed many new questions arise:
These are the tough decisions which need to be made before a data archiving strategy can be put into place. While the temptation to build in house may be strong is there really justification for so doing? Can staff be spared to work on this project? Although the up-front cost is cheaper what about the long-term cost, not just in staff time for the project but ongoing as expertise is lost through staff movement. What about the need to implement the strategy across multiple platforms within the same organisation? Can we spare project staff from each area of the organisation to work on developing a bespoke solution for their operating platform?
The answer is potentially a bought in solution which will work across multiple platforms thus bringing a scalable solution to the enterprise without needing to take precious staff time away onto separate, long-term test and development projects to create a bespoke solution.
But what about data accessibility?
One of the key concerns when it comes to archiving is that data needs to be accessible. Whether this is by means of a business intelligence tool, an SQL command or using the same method as when the data was online, the user needs to have access. In addition, it may also be required that data is able to be put back into production from its archived database.
A solution such as IBM's Optim data archiving software could be the answer. According to a recent research paper into the Optim product by Bloor research "IBM Optim provides facilities that ensure that the archived data won't break and it offers a variety of mechanisms for accessing that data" Philip Howard, Research Director - Data, Bloor Research
So, it seems that there are ways to control data growth before it controls us. By implementing a thorough archiving policy and an "intelligent archiving" system we can manage data throughout it's lifecycle.
Triton Consulting are Information Management Specialists and IBM Premier Business Partners. For more information on Triton and the solutions they provide visit http://www.triton.co.uk/
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