Removable STORAGE at the dawn of the INTELLIGENCE economy

removable STORAGE at the dawn of the INTELLIGENCE economy – Technology Information

David Doering

the conversation is familiar. We are discussing the value proposition for removable optical storage versus RAID. If we just compare the cost of media and drives, DVD-RAM is a great value for long-term archiving. But once we add in the jukebox, the management software (with the per-user license), and the server upgrades, we have a system that sells for $50/GB. Compare that with RAID at $20/GB and it becomes a tough sell.

Yes, trying to sell DVD or CD as a data repository is going to be tough at these price points. Selling it as an intelligence asset won’t be.

I first noticed this at a recent HP event in San Francisco. Usually a quiet bunch, the people of HP have had a fire lit under them by their new CEO. Along with the usual round of product descriptions, HP showed off its products in three simulated scenarios onstage: home, SOHO, and office. This made me think of how we use data, and why it’s been so tough to move optical into the mainstream.

Today’s business and government work on Internet time. Immediacy is the word of the day, as people want to interact on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis. They don’t want to wait to talk to someone during business hours, not to mention wait overnight for a package. So a Web site with database access isn’t an option anymore for companies. It is mandatory, right along with office furniture, business cards, and telephones.

However, almost all companies view computer output as just data–be it a transaction, a charge-account balance, or client profile. It is all bits-and-bytes. So companies choose tape backup because it is great for the bits and bytes of data. But clients aren’t satisfied with just data. They want something more.

If companies put data into a context, they then have something more: information. For example, the arrival time of planes is just data. The arrival time of my plane is information. This information tells you something about your business. The final step is to fit this context (me) into a set of patterns based on experience. This is intelligence–information mixed with experience to form a predictive insight for future action.

people pay big bucks for intelligence.

One online travel agency demonstrates the power of intelligence. Not only does it show flight schedules (data), book your flight (information), but it continues to track your itinerary. If your flight is delayed, it will alert you with an e-mail (intelligence). Or, as does, track your preferences and offer you similar items in the future. Both can offer incredible time savings just for a start.

Let’s look at another example. NASA has 28TB of satellite data they need for research. But the only storage system they are aware of for this “data” is tape, which wears out over time. Tape technology also changes over time, so the company repeatedly has to migrate this data from one tape system to another. NASA is looking at four years of transferring this from one storage medium to another, only to repeat the process in a few years.

And this isn’t unique to NASA. Lee Holcomb, NASA’s CIO, says that, “The issues we deal with are very common for government agencies.” It is true of most private companies as well. Data is securely archived, and then exists in a kind of corporate amnesia where only the most current items are available as information on the Internet or company intranet.

Even if they wanted to, NASA has most of its data in transit somewhere from one medium to another. All of this information is at best only available part of the time. The rest of the time, NASA’s data is in the amnesia zone. So it seems that optical storage is a kind of hand-and-glove solution for NASA. We need to awaken upper management to its corporate amnesia and what it is costing them.

We should move clients from simply retrieving data into creating information and then intelligence. And this means a full corporate memory online. No hidden pockets of information squirreled away on unreadable tape. No data lost through hard disk failure. No data isolated on remote systems because they can’t link into the enterprise via the Internet. All must be incorporated into one great whole–an enterprise memory system–for internal and external use, that is ready to create intelligence.

Clients on the outside want to see a company’s information and create intelligence too. Empowering people via the Internet with corporate information consistently brings people back to that site. Just think of your own experience–which vendor would you prefer to work with, one that allows you to view order status online, or one that doesn’t? One that gives your distributors information about the potential buyers of your technology or one that only provides product slicks?

Who wants to make do with razor-thin hardware margins in optical storage when the real value is in demonstrating access to information?

Is today’s removable storage ready for this? Yes, with available jukebox technology, DVD-R and -RAM, and the better software packages we’ll be looking at in the future.

Companies are finally getting the idea. HP is starting, and Luminex does it in the prepress area. (We’ll review the latter’s product, HotFolders, in an upcoming issue.) And jukebox vendor NSM is now integrating its hardware product more tightly with the PoiNT management software to provide more services. As these and other vendors sell “intelligence” and not just data boxes, we’ll start seeing a wider enterprise acceptance of online optical storage.

THE NETWORK OBSERVER columnist David Doering (, an EMedia contributing editor, is also senior analyst with TechVoice Inc., an Orem, Utah-based consultancy.

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