The Advantages of an Active Archive in Today’s Data-Flooded World

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The vast volumes of data created daily, coupled with the opportunity to derive value from that data, is making active archives an increasingly important part of organizations’ data management game plans across the globe.

In this Q&A, Active Archive Alliance Chairman, Peter Faulhaber, FUJIFILM Recording Media, U.S.A., Inc., shares his perspective on the role of active archives in managing the data deluge.

Q: What are some of the key trends driving the shift to active archive?

A: I would say the relentless rate of data growth and how to manage it. The answer lies in proper data classification and moving data to the right tier of storage at the right time. Analysts say that 60% of data becomes archival after 90 days or less. So there is a need to cost-effectively store, search for and retrieve enormous volumes of rapidly growing archival content.

Q: So what exactly does an active archive enable?

A: An active archive enables online access to data throughout its lifecycle regardless of which tier it resides in the storage hierarchy. Active archive file systems span all pools of storage, whether they are SSDs, HDDs, tape or cloud. But tape is a key enabler. Since tape has the lowest total cost of ownership for long term data retention, you can cost-effectively maintain on-line access to all of your data in an active archive.

Q: Speaking of tape, is cloud killing tape?

A: That’s a misconception as cloud storage providers such as Microsoft Azure have publicly stated their use of tape as part of their deep archive service offerings. The main reason is economics, which is supported by tape’s high reliability, long life and future areal density roadmap. I also think the industry is settling on a sensible balance of on-premises and off-site storage where tape has a role in both. So no, cloud is not killing tape, rather it’s an opportunity.

Q: How is an archive different than a backup?

A: Backup and archive are entirely different processes with different objectives. Think of the backup process as a “copy” of your data for recovery purposes. Backups are cycled and updated frequently to account for and protect the latest versions of important data assets.  As for archiving, think of this as a “move” of your fixed data to a new, more cost-effective tier for long-term retention. But if you ask end users, they don’t want their data sitting on a shelf off-line. They want it online, searchable and readily available and that’s what active archive provides.

Q: What is the market opportunity for active archives?

A: The market opportunity is significant due to the volume of archival data, the value of that data and the velocity or speed of access that’s required today. A recent ESG Research survey indicated that less than 40% of corporations have a dedicated archive strategy in place, yet every organization has archival data! The market is ready for modern, leading-edge archiving concepts like active archive.

Q: How is an active archive implemented?

A: There are numerous software and hardware solutions ranging from stand-alone active archive appliances to intelligent data management software that includes active archiving among other capabilities. End users canleveragetheir existing storage systems to implement an active archive strategy. Most active archive solutions allow customers to repurpose existing tape libraries to create an active archive partition that looks to users like another disk volume. When this is combined with open standard LTFS, or Linear Tape File System, the active archive is free from vendor lock-in, and ensures data portability and copy management for long-term archives.

Q: What are some of the advantages of an active archive?

A: An active archive enables users to easily find and utilize archived data, while also removing complexity and operational load on IT administrators. By automating archiving so that data doesn’t get stranded on an inaccessible “shelf” somewhere, the data value increases without tying up the most expensive storage resources. This improves storage performance, lowers total cost of ownership, and reduces risk of non-compliance and data loss.

Q: You mention simplified data storage and ease of use, how is that achieved?

A: Active archive solves complexity by leveraging an intelligent data management layer. Access and management of data is getting more complex so we need modern strategies with intelligent data management techniques that are automated and policy based.  Classifying data upon its creation by its value, and automatically updating performance and capacity requirements over its lifecycle will enable the right data to be in the right place at the right time.

Q: Can active archives be implemented in the cloud?

A: Yes. An active archive can combine onsite, offsite, and cloud environments. Most, if not all, cloud providers are offeringarchival data services including active archiving. Active archive brings the same benefits to public clouds as it does to on-premises solutions.

Q: What’s in store for active archives in the future?

A: As organizations fully embrace digital transformation, they are quickly learning the value of analyzing large amounts of previously dormant archival data, and that makes having quick and affordable access to that data so important. New tools and use cases such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, IoT, and video surveillance for example will drive increased demand for active archives by organizations that need to effectively manage data from terabytes to exabytes across multiple storage tiers.

Finally, I would say that organizations archive their data because they either want to preserve the value of the content or because they have to, such as for compliance — but either way, the magnitude of archival storage requirements will be a major challenge. With the amount of archival data exploding with no end in sight, active archives will play a vital and necessary role in optimizing data storage to reduce costs, but also to ensure archived data is accessible and protected. That’s an attractive value proposition, so the future is bright for active archives.

Originally published in Storage Newsletter, January 14, 2019.


Meredith Bagnulo

Active Archive Alliance