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Storage for the people

Jun 22, 20043 mins
Data CenterMainframesSmall and Medium Business

* The 'trickle-down effect' is happening in the storage world

The “trickle-down effect” was a simplistic view of economics espoused in the 1980s by U.S. politicians who didn’t seem to understand much about economics. The idea was that if the rich did well, benefits would “trickle down” to the rest of us. So taxes were sharply reduced for the wealthy, who reaped large (some would even say hoggish) levels of benefit.

The rest did, indeed, get a trickle. Just barely.

Trickle-down is a concept that actually works when it comes to storage, however. Here’s what I mean.

We in high-tech tend to be a forgetful bunch, a situation that particularly applies to those of us with an open systems background. We take great pride in making fun of our mainframe brethren, for example, often referring to the machines they work with as dinosaurs that have long out-lived their evolutionary niche. So we sit around and wait for them to turn into oil.

In the course of doing this, we conveniently forget how much we owe them when it comes to managing information. Most of the fundamental storage management concepts we use today have come down to us from the mainframe world.

Hierarchical storage management (HSM), for example, was used to minimize the cost of storage. Files were moved through a hierarchy of progressively cheaper storage devices, so that older data was eventually written to tape, the cheapest storage medium available. 

It is easy to recognize how this has impacted the new drive to information lifecycle management (ILM), a more highly developed descendant of HSM but one that clearly has the HSM concept – developed for mainframes – in its evolutionary path.

The trend continues, and now we are starting to see some technologies that were originally developed for mainframes and open systems begin to move down to the point where they can cost-effectively service the small and midsize market. Here are a few examples of how high-end technology is trickling down to SMBs:

DataCore, one of the first players to provide improved storage utilization for open systems through its SANsymphony storage virtualization software, released its SANmelody fileserver package a few months ago. This made the benefits of networked file serving accessible to smaller companies. Last week, the company introduced SANmelody Lite, a $199 package that provides the same sort of services (but with smaller capacity) at a price that any small business can afford.

Intradyn has built a small appliance that provides complete automated backup services for smaller businesses. Now, at least as far as backups are concerned, smaller businesses that lack an IT staff can “set it and forget it” when it comes to data protection and can concentrate on whatever it is that makes them money.

If the trend continues, we open-system people may soon get our comeuppance. In a few years, smaller companies may be making the same remarks about open systems that we used to make about mainframes. The technology trickle-down will continue.

So let’s hear it for trickle-down storage management. Clearly, the theory works here. But please, remember that what works in storage doesn’t necessarily work for the economy.