Data tiering and archiving is a great way to keep up with data growth and keep data storage costs down. When done right, finding cold data and tiering it from your expensive storage and backups can save 70% of costs. But how much you save depends on how you tier data. There are distinct differences that can significantly impact the savings you get and the impact on your end users.

This brief identifies seven things to avoid when considering different data tiering and data archiving solutions and lists what features to look for to optimize your data storage cost savings.

Data tiering can save 70% of storage costs without disruption, if done correctly.

No Disruption is the Differentiator

Komprise-Transparent-Move-Technology-White-Paper-SOCIAL-768x402Many vendors offer data archiving or data tiering approaches, but there’s a vast difference between solutions. Some say that their data tiering is transparent to users, apps, and workflows. But when you take a closer look at how the solution tiers cold data, you see a big difference—and lots of disruption—in terms of what happens when tiered files get accessed, hidden costs, and vendor lock-in. And when it comes to cloud tiering, know your choices.

What you need to know before jumping into the cloud pool.


Where Storage Tiering Gets It Wrong—7 Common Pitfalls

The common approaches to data tiering are:

  • Traditional Data Tiering (Archiving)
  • Proprietary Transparent Tiering through HSM (Storage-Based Tiering)

Unfortunately, both approaches have pitfalls that can affect your total cost savings, which is why a data-centric, storage vendor-agnostic approach to unstructured data management is required.

Traditional Data Tiering (aka Lift & Shift)

What is it?

In this scenario, end users can literally wake up and find their data gone. Because, at its most basic, tiering simply moves cold data from the primary storage onto another medium. This means the tiered or archived data is no longer accessible from the original location. This is a lot easier than transparent tiering, which is why so many vendors offer it, but this simplicity comes at a cost.


What are the downsides to traditional data tiering?

  • 1. IT involvement in file retrieval

    If users need to access a cold file or run an older application that requires accessing a cold file that’s been traditionally tiered, they must file a support ticket. IT administrators like these “go fetch” activities about as much as users like waiting for their files to become available. These are mutually unproductive time sinks.

  • 2. Inefficient manual data tiering workflows

    Traditional data tiering requires a manual approval process between users and IT. First to gain permission, then to painstakingly go through which files can be tiered, and then repeat on an ongoing basis to keep identifying cold data to offload primary storage. Not only is this highly inefficient, but it results in tiering less than 10% of the 70% cold data they have—a tremendous savings loss.

  • 3. Requires entire projects to be tiered

    Traditional data tiering is limited to projects whose data is neatly organized into a collection of data, such as a share/volume or a directory. IT relies on users letting them know when projects are completed and when data becomes cold. Users need ample warning for project-based, or batched data archiving to avoid surprises finding their data.

    Obviously, many workplace projects aren’t neatly defined, and when they are, they often run for years—all time you’re not saving costs. The combined manual approval process and project-based approach of traditional data tiering is not only highly inefficient but results in <10% of all cold data being tiered, which minimizes data storage cost savings.

Proprietary Transparent Data Archiving: HSM and Storage Tiering

CloudTiering_Webinar_OnDemandsocial-768x402Hierarchical Storage Management. What is it?

Dating back to the 70’s, Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) is one of the first attempts at transparent data archiving using proprietary interfaces, such as stubs.

What are the downsides?

  • 4. Stubs add latency and risk

    Proprietary interfaces, such as stubs, make the tiered data appear to reside on primary storage, but the transparency ends there. To access data, the HSM intercepts access requests, retrieves the data from where it resides, and then rehydrates it back to primary storage. This process adds latency and increases the risk of data loss and corruption.

    Stub brittleness is also problematic. When stubbed data is moved from its storage (file, object, cloud, or tape) to another location, the stubs can break. The HSM no longer knows where the data has been moved to and it becomes orphaned, preventing data access. Existing HSM solutions on the market use client-server architecture and do not scale to support data at massive scale.

Storage-Based Tiering. What is it?

An integral part of the storage array, storage tiering is used to migrate cold blocks from hot, expensive tiers to lower-cost cheaper ones. The problems arose when primary vendors began marketing these as data tiering and archiving solutions. Read the post What You Need to Know Before Jumping into the Cloud Tiering Pool.

What are the downsides of storage-base tiering?

  • 5. Storage-based tiering erodes significant backup savings

    Storage-based tiering is a block-level tiering technique where the primary storage stores cold blocks of files in less expensive locations, such as cheaper tiers or the cloud. And this is where the problems arise—because this is a proprietary solution not understood by most backup and third-party applications.

    In the best-case scenario, the backup footprint stays the same, which eliminates all the savings from footprint reduction and backup licenses. Worst case, it can potentially increase the backup window since fetching all of these blocks back from the capacity storage unit will be slower.

    Many storage vendors claim they can tier to the cloud, but it can result in more degraded performance and expensive retrieval and cloud egress costs if the data gets accessed.

  • 6. Storage vendor lock-in

    Proprietary block-based solutions limit your ability to switch storage vendors or clouds, which significantly impairs your ability to save costs. Often, all the data has to be rehydrated or brought back before you can switch vendors, which complicates vendor migrations and creates unnecessary costs.

  • 7. No native access on target

    Because only cold blocks, not the full file are moved, the data cannot be directly accessed on secondary storage. When tiered files are not easily accessed, IT will be the first to hear about it from end users. This not only affects productivity but diminishes the amount of data users are willing to archive to avoid this negative experience.

  • Read the white paper: Block-Level vs File-Level Tiering – What’s the Difference?

What Kind of Data Tiering Does Get It Right?

Standards-based Transparent Data Tiering

What is it?

A true transparent data tiering solution creates literally no disruption, and that’s only achievable with a standards-based approach. Komprise Intelligent Data Management is the only standards-based transparent data tiering solution that uses Transparent Move Technology™ (TMT), which uses Dynamic Links that are based on industry-standard symbolic links instead of proprietary stubs.

What are the upsides of transparent data tiering?

Komprise-TMT-blog-thumb-768x512True transparency that users won’t notice

When a file is archived using TMT, it’s replaced by a symbolic link, which is a standard file system construct available in both NFS and SMB file systems. The symbolic link, which retains the same attributes as the original file, points to the Komprise Cloud File System (KCFS), and when a user clicks on it, the file system on the primary storage forwards the request to KCFS, which maps the file from the secondary storage where the file actually resides. (An eye blink takes longer.)

This approach seamlessly bridges file and object storage systems so files can be archived to highly cost-efficient object-based solutions without losing file access.

Continuous monitoring maximizes savings

Komprise continuously monitors all the links to ensure they’re intact and pointing to the right file on the secondary storage. It extends the life of the primary storage while reducing the amount of the primary storage required for your hot data. This savings makes it more affordable to replace your existing primary storage with a smaller, faster, flash-based primary storage.

Reduced backups

Most backup systems can be configured to just backup symbolic links and not follow them. This reduces the backup footprint and costs because only the links are backed up, not the original file. If an archived file needs to be restored, the standard restore process for that backup system needs to be followed to restore the symbolic link that is then transparently used to access the original file.

Less rehydration

To control expensive rehydration, Komprise allows you to set policies when an tiered file can be rehydrated back onto the primary server. You can limit rehydration upon first file access, or when a file is accessed a set number of times within a set time. When a file is accessed for the first time, KCFS caches it thereby ensuring fast access on all subsequent access.

The 7 Data Tiering Pitfalls to Avoid

Watch for these seven data tiering pitfalls when choosing your unstructured data management solution:


Tier data smarter to save more data storage costs

Learn how a standards-based transparent data tiering approach can help your organization. Komprise Intelligent Data Management avoids these data tiering pitfalls to enable maximum data storage savings.

Make the Most of Data Tiering

With the growing pressure to save costs amidst soaring unstructured data growth, it’s important to better understand your data storage tiering options. Some methods can cause unexpected types of disruption, even though they claim the ability to transparently tier and archive.

When you factor user experience, backup footprint, rehydration, and vendor lock-in, it’s clear to see why many are choosing a standards-based transparent data tiering solution. With Komprise Intelligent Data Management, you can avoid common data tiering pitfalls and achieve maximum storage savings without any disruption to your organization.

Learn More About the Benefits of Intelligent Data Management

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