Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

Storage planning to mix new and old solutions

In light of the increasing volume of data to be managed, many agencies are likely to revisit their data retention policies and solutions in the years ahead, according to a recent survey conducted by the 1105 Public Sector Media Group.

As noted in an earlier article, on average agency data is increasing approximately 40 percent each year, which sooner or later will tax the storage infrastructure of many agencies. As a result, storage managers are feeling pressure on two different issues: cost and performance.

On the one hand, most agencies cannot afford to simply throw money at the problem, the survey found. In fact, 58 percent of respondents said they were “very concerned” about reducing their data storage maintenance costs and simplifying their storage requirements.

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On the other hand, storage managers need to be sure that their storage infrastructure can support the volumes of data and quality of service that users will be demanding. In the survey, 74 percent of respondents agreed that this was a concern, compared to 9 percent who disagreed and 17 percent who were neutral.

Costs might be controlled in various ways. One option is to make sure that users are adhering to existing policies. Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents agreed that their agency’s data retention polices “need to be more intelligently and rigorously administered.”

Another option is taking a more centralized approach to storage management: 55 percent said that they were very interested in moving to a centralized data management system.

But storage managers also are looking to new technologies, both to make data more manageable and to improve the performance of their storage infrastructure. One increasingly popular option is the use of solid state drives, or flash memory. SSDs have no moving mechanical components, which provide faster access time and less latency than traditional disks.

According to the survey, 56 percent of agencies have deployed some SSDs in place of disk arrays, another 23 percent plan to do so within the year, and 13 percent are investigating it.

Another option is storage snapshot technology. This technology makes it possible to create “point-in-time” copies of data files, which can be used in the event of a disaster or any other failure of a storage system. Snapshots typically can be created quickly and with little disruption, and in the event a failure, they can be implemented quickly.

The survey found that 48 percent of agencies have implemented storage snapshot technology, with 35 percent expecting to deploy it within the year.

One new category of storage technology did not factor in this year’s survey, but it might become more prevalent in the years ahead. It is what some experts refer to as cold storage. International Data Corp., a market research and consulting firm, defines cold storage as “the lowest tier of data storage solutions with a total cost that is lower than the residual or perceived business value of the data sets stored on them,” according to a report. issued in March.

IDC notes that many apps and systems capture data that has a very short shelf life, practically speaking. That includes data generated by smartphone and tablet apps, big data initiatives and the myriad devices now connected to the Internet —the so-called Internet of Things. Although most organizations do not need to keep such data accessible via online storage, there might still be some value in keeping accessible in some way. That’s where cold storage comes in.

Cold storage is designed to provide “acceptable” levels of accessibility and availability, but certainly nothing along the lines of traditional storage systems. By keeping the costs down, cold storage makes it practical to keep more data on hand.

“Data is the new digital currency, and companies are determined to cash in on the data’s value sometime in the future,” said Ashish Nadkarni, research director for storage systems at IDC.

But while there are always new technologies on the horizon, older technologies still have their place. Tape-based storage, for example, continues to hold its own as a data backup and archiving solution. According to the survey, 34 percent of data is now archived on tape, compared to 66 percent on disk, and those numbers are expected to be the same two years from now.

Methodology and survey demographics

Between February 21st and March 1st, 2014, 107 subscribers of FCW, GCN and other 1105 Government Information Group publications responded to an e-mail survey about networking and storage trends in government agencies. Survey respondents were comprised of those involved with networking and storage operations for their department or agency. Beacon Technology Partners developed the methodology, fielded the survey and compiled the results.

Approximately 88% of respondents were technology decision-makers (CIOs or other IT managers or professionals), while 12 percent were senior managers, program managers or other business decision-makers. Approximately 67 percent came from the federal government (34 percent civilian, 33 percent defense) and 33 percent from state or local government agencies.

About this Report

This report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at [email protected]