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Getting close to data that’s beyond the data center walls

Jan 24, 20063 mins
Data Center

* 'Keep your friends close, and your data closer.'

“Keep your friends close, and your data closer.” I think that was the advice the elder Don Corleone shared with his son in “The Godfather.” Even before that however, there were other rumblings about data. For instance, it has been decades now since we first began to hear that “a company’s true value lies with its data,” and that corporate information must be accessed/moved/stored/protected/you-name-it as efficiently as possible.

It should be a given that concepts like this have always been great news for anyone in the storage business. After all, it is just this sort of deep thinking that provides the rationale for spending money on arrays, management software, and all the other things that keeps storage sales reps in fancy new cars. And we all want that.

To varying degrees, this perception has been good news for IT managers as well. The underlying realization implicit here – that our employers’ value approaches zero if they are without their data – has helped storage budgets track data growth, although with significant lag time in most cases, and frequently that growth in storage budgets has not been at all proportional to the need.

It’s another truism that the closer the data is to a company’s core IT services, the better treatment that data gets. Enterprise data centers are often very, very good at taking care of what goes on within their own walls, but sometimes have trouble extending much of that value out into the rest of the enterprise. We back up our Syms, Sharks and TagmaStors religiously, and our open systems devices as well (different religion, same fervor), but we are not nearly so good at protecting all the data that accumulates on the desktops and laptops scattered across the 32 floors at corporate headquarters.

Companies make various efforts to extend data services beyond the data center walls, but often they take a wrong turn and such projects become self-defeating efforts. We impose rules that try to redefine the work environment (“store nothing locally,” “execute nothing locally,” “use the virtual desktop”), but these often prove to be counter-productive as they change the ways people are used to working and force workers into sub-optimal settings. This sort of “cure” often reminds me of decades gone by: can anybody really explain to me, for example, the functional distinction between today’s virtual desktop that is accessed over a broadband link – but with lots of overhead – and that desktop terminal I used in the 1980s over a 19.2 K-baud asynchronous line?

Nah, don’t bother.

Fortunately, there is some help on the way, and it applies to a particularly needful population – remote workers. Wide area file services (WAFS) is a category of solutions that is proving to be quite useful to many remote offices, but it is typically too pricey for really small offices.

How to keep folks in the small remote office from being left out in the cold will be our subject next time.