Did you know that in six years’ time each individual on the planet will correspond to over 5,000 gigabytes of stored data? That’s the estimate from market research company IDC and digital storage enterprise EMC who see worldwide data holdings doubling about every two years to reach 40,000 exabytes (40 million billion gigabytes) by 2020. Right now in 2014, that means making moves to extend and enhance data storage solutions appropriately, and update those disaster recovery plans too. To store and manage all the data forecast to arrive, new techniques and technologies are available to blend with revamps of existing ones.
First, the techniques: these allow organisations to squeeze more storage efficiency out of existing infrastructures while maintaining integrity and security. Storage virtualisation is increasingly accepted: data are held in private or public clouds, where server disk space usage is shared and optimised. Deduplication and automatic tiering are more recent additions. Deduplication uses intelligent compression to eliminate redundant data and reduce storage requirements. Automatic tiering moves information from one storage medium to another according to frequency with which it is accessed. Data consistently needed in real time live in the fastest memory, whereas archive data are stored to cheaper, slower space.
What about the technologies? Flash memory has very recently become affordable for data centres, although phase-change memory (PCM) offering up to 1,000 times the speed of flash is hot on its heels. Hard disk drive vendors are vying with each other to offer helium-filled hard drives (greater power efficiency and capacity), new optical disk media (data are literally engraved for failsafe archival) and shingled magnetic recording (SMR, overlapping data tracks). You’ll still have to wait for DNA storage products, however. And last, but by no means least, there’s tape – still hanging in there with new file systems like IBM’s LTFS (Linear Tape File System) as a major data storage player for a good while yet.