SAN StorageBy Leeanne Andrews

Like vital organs to the human body, storage optimization techniques are necessary for a healthy and efficient data storage system.  With the implementation of any of these three techniques relative to your digital environment, you can substantially improve the efficiency of your storage system.  By taking advantage of these optimization methods, you can avoid the over purchase of equipment and better protect your storage infrastructure.  

In a way, these techniques are like health insurance, they cut your expenses and give you full coverage.  Furthermore, they should never be overlooked, especially when the current technology can have a positive effect on your ROI.  In essence, thin provisioning, deduplication, and compression function as the brain, heart, and lungs of a storage efficient infrastructure’s anatomy.  

1.  Thin provisioning

Thin provisioning is a method of storage optimization, which requires a system to only allocate the physical capacity necessary for operation in the short-term.  For instance, if your storage system's servers and head units require a system with a max capacity of 9TB, thin provisioning will allow you to comfortably operate with a 4TB system.  By purchasing a system with a significantly lower overall capacity compared to their current storage system, the buyer is able to lower costs.  Ultimately, this technique prevents the customer from purchasing an excess amount of capacity and wasting storage space, making for a more efficient data storage system.

2.  Deduplication

Deduplication is a storage optimization technique, which looks for repeated blocks of data, deletes them, and maintains a link to the original file.  Thus, the program is only storing unique changes to the data, requiring a significantly smaller amount of disk capacity and reducing costs.  Deduplication is very important simply because it takes less space to store a link then to store a file.  Even heavy hitters in the hardware industry such as NetApp and EMC recognize the value in deduplication as they once were in a bidding war to buy out DataDomain, the pioneer of this storage efficient technology.  Ultimately, data storage giant, EMC, put its money where its mouth is, giving DataDomain a $2.4 billion offer it could not refuse.

3.  Compression

Although very similar to deduplication, compression replaces the redundancies found in data sequences with fewer bits as opposed to deleting them and retaining a link to the original copy.  The replacement factor of the compression process is very significant because the customer has the ability to recompress or retrieve the original data in the future.  Subsequently, the amount of data that is actually restored is classified as lossless or lossy compression.  Lossless meaning all of the original data is successfully restored and lossy meaning some of the data is discarded.  For lossless compression, imagine a data sequence of “CCCDDDDD.”  With a compression algorithm or formula the data can be reduced to 3C5D, taking up much less space.  Of course there are additional methods of encoding or compressing information.  Lossy compression is often associated with media files where missing small bits of information is not detrimental to the preservation of the music, image, or video and can go unnoticed. A classic example of lossy compression involves transmitting images across the web perhaps via e-mail, which may require the account holder to compress the JPEG file.  Imagine the file contains approximately 800 kbytes of data.  Through compression, the user is able to shrink the file down to about half its original size thus decreasing the download time of the image significantly.  Ultimately, compacting data into a smaller space cuts costs for the consumer by increasing the amount of additional disk space available.

Considering data growth is a rising concern for the technology industry, improving your storage system efficiency is not a luxury, but a necessity.  You should never underestimate the power of storage optimization.  Just think about how much money you’ll save in operating costs by making your data center more efficient.  Hardware solutions are now in place that can save you significantly in terms of time and money. Even if you’re looking for a short-term solution to test out current technology, a storage rental could be a great idea to “try on.” Protecting the health of your storage system through storage optimization is like protecting the health of your body, it’s important and vital for long-term success.