Phil Wheately, the head of the UK Prison Service, doesn't know how many prisoners have escaped from open prisons. He can find out on a prison by prison basis but doesn't have a central tally.

That is disgraceful, and it prompted me to think what an IT director or CIO might respond if asked: "What files are stored on your systems?"

Virtually every one would say: "I don't know." After a moment's thought they might add: "But I can find out on a server by server and desktop by desktop basis." That's no answer, not in these days of ever-increasing compliance controls and legislative interest in a business' files.

I'd hazard a guess that software will emerge which will provide a tally of what files are stored where. It will be developed to better handle compliance needs and respond efficiently to requests from regulators and legal raiders on a discovery mission.

Perhaps the developing file area network concept will provide facilities for this, although it is a pretty amorphous and fuzzy-edged thing at the moment.

Start-up Njini reckons it can help here. One simple benefit is from the adoption of single file instancing which could empty a lot of disk platters of duplicated files.

Doesn't it seem madness that disk storage is treated so extravagantly as to effectively cost nothing within a enterprise? Buy it and they will come - and come the files certainly do, in their millions and unregulated millions.

One additional aspect of this. Consider backup; consider the total backed up files in an enterprise. How many duplicated files are there in backups? There must be squillions of them. Wouldn't it be great if there was an intelligent backup facility that, whenever it received a request to backup a file, investigated to see if it was already backed up, using say, a content addressing scheme, and provided a pointer to it rather than duplicating an already backed-up file?

What I'm talking about here are two aspects of a virtual storage utility. Perhaps it's fantasy. Perhaps ignorance of what files are stored on a CIO's hundreds and thousands of servers, NAS, SANs and desktops is bliss. Blissful ignorance is not a safe situation to be in, because the fangs of regulators, of cost-saving finance chiefs and of legalised discovery raiders can bite you in the bottom with no warning.

I think a storage product providing an organisation-wide file storage list with management facilities to optimise that storage is going to become a desirable thing. Is Njini the only company with such a software genie in its bottle?