Powerfile is claiming a big step forward in automated archiving with the release of its Archive Facilitator storage appliance. The company said the device saves primary storage, by automatically discovering and moving disused or inactive content to one of its Active Archive appliances.

This process reduces the volume of data that has to be backed up, yet it keeps archived data accessible by leaving behind a tag or link, so it can be retrieved or located when it is requested.

All that's not new of itself – it's what HSM (hierarchical storage management) has done for decades, and what ILM (information lifecycle management) has popularised more recently.

However, Powerfile argued that Archive Facilitator is simpler to set up and cheaper to use than conventional HSM or ILM - in particular, it is non-invasive and does not require software agents on the host devices, said product management director Jim Sherhart.

"The wizard-driven menus make global policies extremely easy to configure," he said. "Archive Facilitator also allows policy simulation, so administrators can fine-tune policies to ensure expected results before executing them."

Sherhart added that the device can search through more than 500TB of Windows, Unix/Linux, NetApp and EMC Celerra volumes without needing agents. It has also been designed to work with popular anti-virus and backup software, to avoid disruption to existing processes or unintended recalls of archived data.

"Archive Facilitator performs contextual classification, so in theory any policy that can be set based on the metadata of a file – last time accessed, last time modified, date created, type, size, owner, location," Sherhart said.

Powerfile decided against full content classification on the grounds that it would be too complicated, disruptive and slow, he said. He argued that it would have involved the time-consuming and user-confusing creation of a separate archive repository.

"Most of our customers just want a simple tool that can discover, classify, and migrate the fixed content to a more cost-effective tier of storage," he said. "Archive Facilitator can classify up to tens of terabytes a day, allowing it to scale for most enterprise environments."