Archiving is experiencing a boom. Researcher IDC says it’s an $800 million market set to grow to $2.3 billion by 2011. But the numbers will prompt a raised eyebrow amongst those who don’t really understand the area. For them it seems archiving is still about consigning information you hope you’ll never need again to a ‘dusty vault’ somewhere. If you do need to get something back– you assume it’s going to be painful.

But this is a false notion, because today you can archive data to anything from online disk to near-line arrays and Write Once Read Many (WORM) optical to off-line, off-site tape. So archived data can be very accessible on online or near-line media if required. And the essence of archiving is about managing your data across the range of storage platforms and devices, enabling you to optimise costs, while at the same time addressing pressing compliance and security concerns. Moreover by moving data off spinning disk to ‘powered down’ media, archiving probably has a claim to be one of the original ‘green’ technologies.

Accessibility is actually boosted because archived data is catalogued, indexed and searchable by content. And if you replace data with a stub or placeholder on the primary store, you effectively make the archive process transparent to the end user.

Archive confusion

In fact the long suffering perception problem surrounding archiving is not just down to the outdated images conjured up by the word itself. But also because archiving terminology seems to have been turned and twisted by a variety of interested parties, confusing the market and hiding its real benefits.

Don’t scoff, but archiving is one of the technologies that underlines the Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) dream. The vision may have become a little tarnished and the market grown sceptical, but only because the ILM term seems to have been ‘hijacked’ by hardware vendors. For them it has come to mean a way of shifting data between different tiers of disk: “Our ILM solution will help you by migrating your data between our disk, our less expensive disk and our even less expensive disk. The bottom line is you need to store your data on these different layers of our disk.”

But while this type of tiered storage system certainly has a role to play, a true archiving definition of ILM would revolve around looking at the data first and foremost. How accessible does it need to be? How secure? Do you need to audit access? Does it need to be authenticated? It’s then about creating rules and using policy-based archive software to intelligently move your data between the full spectrum of storage media, including the many tiers of disk, in order to best address these data requirements.