A question of continuity

So stick with me for a moment I’m an applications oriented guy, unlike a lot of my storage oriented brethren here at Varrow…But I want to make the argument that the question of how do we preserve our information, is one of the oldest questions on the planet.

Almost 30,000 years ago, our ancestors were trying to preserve knowledge of their way of life. They delved into the darkness under the mountains, to the most secure place they could think of. They left later generations some amazing snapshots of their life.

And so it went, the great experiment. We devised constant new methods to store our race’s DNA, our history and culture. The constant struggle to retain information. Egyptian papyrus scrolls reveal to us now, 4000 years later, a complex math and science body of knowledge, with great chunks smudged or torn out.

To think in the dark ages, there were monks whose sole task on this earth, was to lovingly copy the contents of one book into another. This was considered holy work, to preserve knowledge in a dark time.

Somehow we survived, and now that’s all old school. Everything is digital now. We are all set right? Well maybe not. Optical and magnetic media has a pretty short shelf life. CD/DVD/DLT tape lasts 5-30 years if you are very lucky. My sons’ copy of Mario racing lasted 1 year. But the times they are a-changing.

Which brings me to the present where we as a race are finally solving one of the most ancient problems, how do we preserve our information? Storage companies are finally bridging the gap to allow for geographically dispersed storage movement, without interruption of service. Just as the internet provided a common bus for communication between storage and processing pools, technology such as EMC’s vPlex are enabling this kind of federation at the storage level. All without interruption.

Eventually, as this technology embraces all storage platforms, we are going to end up with storage “networks” that cover the entire country. You will be able to move your entire data center in real time from one state to another.

This is just the beginning of what is possible. As bandwidth becomes ever more ubiquitous, your storage array becomes just as flexible as your blade servers in moving around live resources.  Information is constantly refreshed. Even at the consumer level, the availability of the “public” cloud allows for the preservation of your family album.

Your critical data that your business lives and dies off of is guaranteed a steady cycle of constant refresh, without having to deal with all the hassle of managing the risk of a potential massive service interruption. It becomes a non-issue. Constant data refresh just HAPPENS. For managers of large implementations, even with ITIL guidelines, once the new environment is tested and certified, the actual migration is yawn inducing. Not a terrifying journey into the depths of what caffeine can do to a person at 4 in the morning.

This is the kind of future we are building towards. No more “my family pictures were lost in the fire”. No more “a burst water main destroyed our DC”. We are at the point of creating a continually renewing global record of mankind. One that can withstand the usual random chaos we have all seen so closely. It isn’t a record etched in titanium and buried in the desert, or a painting buried 1000 feet below the earth in a cave in the south of france. What we are working towards, and are seeing the first sprouts of success now with EMC vPlex, is a vision of truly federated storage, eventually across vendors. Where entire virtual infrastructure’s can move from one storage platform to another in real time.

And as our scientific research delves into how we can store data at ever shrinking levels, and as we sit on the verge of a sea change in how active data is stored, the problem our ancestors faced of “how do I preserve this wicked cool sabertooth drawing”, is reaching its ultimate conclusion.  We are achieving a platform for which any piece of data can be maintained in an active (accessible) and renewable state.

Pretty cool time to be in IT!!