Reflecting on 10 Years of Active Archive

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In this special guest feature, Molly Presley from the Active Archive Alliance reflects on how the unstructured data storage industry has evolved and the implications for active archives.

Molly Presley from Qumulo is a founding member of the Active Archive Alliance.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 10 years since the Active Archive Alliance was founded to help users find solutions for retaining and leveraging their massive unstructured data. Looking back to 10 years ago, many technologies we now consider the “norm” were just gaining momentum. Internet of Things (IOT), sensor-generated data, high-resolution video surveillance cameras, autonomous vehicles, machine learning, and artificial intelligence were only beginning to appear on the horizon. Users were struggling to find data management solutions that could span across storage media and the public cloud to deliver the economics, data access, and compliance that their IT initiatives required.

Active Archive Alliance: What sparked the formation of the Active Archive Alliance?

Molly Presley: The impetus for the Alliance was the recognition of the rapidly increasing value held within unstructured data. Organizations were shifting from databases holding their primary key digital assets to a huge portion of their business value now being within unstructured data. Organizations were struggling to find where all of the unstructured data was being created, consolidating it into a unified solution, gaining visibility into what data they have and how to derive value from it.

We created the Alliance to provide multi-vendor collaboration and case studies to help users pull together the technologies they need to address data-driven business needs for their unstructured data. No one vendor has the required full offering, so industry collaboration was the optimal path to helping users put together solutions and leverage best practices.

Active Archive Alliance: What is an Active Archive?

Molly Presley: Active archives help meet both economic and operational demands for their unstructured data environments. Often, they are built from multiple different vendors’ technology. They typically involved NVMe/SSD, hard disk drives, a hierarchical storage management system (HSM) or other archive software, tape vendor, and/or object storage and cloud. We formed the Alliance to bring together these diverse vendors and technologies to provide collaborative solutions for addressing growing data storage needs.

We also wanted to educate the industry about how diverse technologies could be built into an unstructured data management solution and have a term that people could search for when they were looking for a high-performance, low-cost way to manage their rapidly growing data. We coined the term “active archive,” submitted it for inclusion in the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) dictionary, and began educating the market on how active archives bring together the best of breed technology to deliver high performance, scalability and ease of use – all at an affordable cost.

Active Archive Alliance: How has the relevancy of active archives evolved over the past 10 years?

Molly Presley: Active archives are more relevant today than a decade ago as users are placing more value on unstructured data for creating time to market advantage, research and development, and business intelligence. Ten years ago, customers thought of archives as a cold, dusty place to store data somewhere offsite or offline. Certainly, most organizations didn’t have a strategy to monetize their archived data nor to integrate it easily into their primary storage environment.

When we founded the Alliance, the high-performance computing (HPC) and media and entertainment (M&E) industries were adopting active archives as a way to move data off of expensive primary storage onto secondary storage that remained online and could be accessed anytime, anywhere. Those industries used very specialized applications and had dedicated technologists with unique skills managing the data. Advances in software and workflow automation have increased the accessibility and ease of use of active archives over the past 10 years. We now have software that allows us to extract data from the archive for things like analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, so it adds more value and usability to archived data. And, many of the applications and processes can now be automated through APIs and CLIs to make it easy to automate common tasks and integrate with upstream applications.

Active archives today are less about actively moving data up and down tiers of storage, and more about actively moving the data into workflows, and, making data readily available to application owners and processing engines in the cloud. An active archive can bring life to that data as it becomes more and more important to businesses around the globe.

Active Archive Alliance: In addition to HPC and M&E, what other industries use active archives?

Molly Presley: Video surveillance, healthcare, and online gaming are all industries creating an increasing amount of data that needs to be stored and accessed. With video surveillance, high-definition video leads to larger files sizes, and regulations mandate the length of time that users must retain video footage. In the healthcare industry, technology advances are making it possible to share things like x-ray images digitally, which requires more storage. And, while online gaming was in its infancy 10 years ago, it is now a vast generator of data. All this data needs to be stored cost-effectively and with easy accessibility.

Active Archive Alliance: What are some of the current trends that are shaping the data storage industry?

Molly Presley: The cloud. It is here, and it’s here to stay. As more data is being created and stored, organizations have enormous demands on their on-premise storage and need to leverage the cloud for the economics and compute capabilities it affords. They need solutions that allow them to harness the power of the cloud while still providing the security and control of on-premise solutions.

Also, many companies are in the process of figuring out how to take advantage of applications such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. They recognize the inherent value but often are not quite sure how to take advantage of it.

Active Archive Alliance: What advice would you give to organizations today who are looking to improve their data management strategies?

Molly Presley: Many companies are seeking ways to manage massive amounts of unstructured data effectively. Whether they have one million files or 100 billion files, it is all relative to the organization and its size. But, with big unstructured data sets that grow on average about 10x per year, organizations need solutions that can scale not just in how much data they can store but also in the number of files they can store. They also need the ability to find those files and know what’s in them. The industry is shifting from a focus on how to store data within a specific budget to finding a solution that is scalable, fast, and able to identify and deliver the right content.

Active Archive Alliance: Why should vendors with active archive solutions consider being a part of the Alliance?

Molly Presley: With the plethora of new applications and software driving today’s digital transformation, there is a major opportunity for companies with active archive technologies to join the Active Archive Alliance and help drive industry conversations over the next 10 years. When customers buy storage, they rarely just invest in one solution, and often, it’s hard for a company with a point technology to be a part of the solution. The Alliance promotes complete solutions rather than separate systems for data management, cloud, tape, and file systems, which makes the process much easier and is what customers want. Joining the Active Archive Alliance is a great way to advance active archive solutions with other like-minded vendors to help solve customers’ data storage needs.

Source: Meredith Bagnulo at the Active Archive Alliance

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