BOFH: Stop your tiers – when it comes to storage, less is more

Hierarchical storage? Why you had only to ask, Boss

Episode 10

"You'll never guess who I just saw in here!" the PFY blurts, entering Mission Control with a mainstream IT mag in hand.

"One of the Royal Family using a tablet?"


"A movie star or football player with a new bendy iPhone?"


"A vendor-sponsored review of new technology with a shameless suckup review of their product?"


"Well it can't be an IT mag then."

"No!" the PFY gasps... "It was the Boss!"

"Hall of Shame?" I ask. "That goat-worrying charge finally caught up with him then?"

"As a matter of fact, no," the Boss trumpets, entering Mission Control with a considerable number of copies of the same mag under his arm.

"So burying it in the forest in the middle of the night paid off then?" I ask.

I admit there's a bit of animosity between the current Boss and me. He rubs me up the wrong way - and not just because of his suggestion to move all staff to Surface hardware.

Where your seasoned veteran of IT will never touch version n.0 of ANYTHING, will be cautious about n.1 and will possibly dip their toe in the water at n.1.1 the Boss is a far more gung-ho adopter and believer of hype. If the advert says it's good, it must be good. If half the world is screaming out that it's bad and that wireless connection reliability has gone into the toilet after the upgrade, all it takes is a quick newsbite from the vendor saying it's perfectly OK to convince the Boss that it's green light time.

If we keep him on we'll end up with cupboards crammed with expensive fad-rubbish that people are too embarrassed to fess up to buying.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Newton, The Ipaq, Vista, Windows Me, Macintosh TV, The Apple III, Office Assistant, Lotus Notes, SSA Disks, dbase iV, the JAZ Drive, IBM "deathstar" drives, Timex Sinclair 1000, The PCjr or ANY Trackball/"advanced" mousing device.

The Boss, however, is unlikely to learn from these mistakes, having no grounding in the good and bad of IT. Like a simple-minded relative, he must be protected from harm and gently guided.

"I'll need a brick, some earmuffs and the plastic wrapping that those 2 racks came in last week," I say.

"Really?" the PFY asks. "Is that what you'd do to... >scrabble< 'The UK's foremost authority on deduplication strategies'?"

"Say what now?"

"It says so here - in the Expert Opinion column"

I snatch the mag off the PFY before the rays of the Boss' smugness turn gamma. Sure enough, in the "technical" section there's an article about backup deduplication strategies. Admittedly it's brought down to the mag-reader mentality by illustrating the basic principles using scantily clad identical triplet models...

"How the hell did you get to be an expert?" the PFY asks.

"I am an expert. My dissertation was on backup system redundancies and deduplication strategies. What I don't know about deduplication strategies isn't worth knowing!"

"No, I think you'll find what *I* don't know about deduplication strategies isn't worth knowing," the PFY replies... "and I don't know ANYTHING about it."

"It's ridiculously simple!" the Boss says. "Did you know that deduplication can substantially reduce your backup times - especially if you do it at source?"

"What about if we take VM snapshots?"

"You're copying a lot of data. It takes time. It wastes time. By deduplicating your data you can save time."

"We don't need to save time. It happens overnight."

"But as data gets larger, backups get larger and take more time."

"It doesn't and they don't," I say. "As time goes on, disk speeds increase – which is where we're backing up our data. And data isn't really increasing all that much anyway."

"I think you'll find it is."

"And *I* think you'll find it isn't," the PFY says.

"Of course it is; it happens everywhere!"

"Everywhere without a data decreation strategy," I counter.

"What the hell's a data decreation strategy?"

"It's ridiculously simple!" I gasp. "You encourage people not to create data – and that's really doing it at source!"

"That's no strategy!"

"Course it is. We turn on every possible data integrity check on the OVER-RAIDED, DUPLICATED, CONFIRM-AFTER-TOTAL-WRITE-COMPLETED disk pool which is so glacially slow and that tends to encourage people to keep their personal rubbish on USB stick. Also, we AGGRESSIVELY remove financial data greater than 10 years old, along with the data of people who have left or have been seconded to another site."

"That's no strategy!"

"Yes it is! Although that's not the complete strategy. There's more. For instance: your email auto-archive - that doesn't exist," I say.

"It never has," the PFY adds. "And any large file in someone's folder that they haven't touched in ages," the PFY continues. "That doesn't exist either."

"You told me you used tiered hierarchical storage!"

"We do. Tier one is Solid State Disk, Tier Two is normal disk, Tier Three is crap disk and Tier Four is nothing."

"That's not hierarchical! Hierarchical differentiates on data availability and access time."

"Sure it is. Access times are: super quick, pretty quick, reasonably quick and infinity."

"Surely people notice!?"

"Occasionally people look, but we've found that if we link their content to some porn they've viewed on company time they just quietly delete the files, suspecting they'd accidentally overwritten it."

"And you think that's some sort of strategy?"

"Indeed it is. I might write an article on it," I say

"After he's finished his dissertation of course," the PFY adds.

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