Storage is the Foundation of Knowledge Retention

Story telling was an oral tradition, with the story held purely in memory. Consequently, these stories evolved as they passed through generations by word of mouth. Cave paintings depicting hunting scenes are some of the earliest form of record. Ancient races subsequently developed characters so that they could capture their knowledge. There are many old artefacts that are currently indecipherable without extensive studies.

We can learn valuable lessons from the past. Your digital content is all zeroes and ones. As it is created, it too resides in volatile memory. The act of saving commits our work to persistent storage. If you value your content, then you’ll also want to keep it safe – protecting it from loss, corruption and format obsolescence.

Returning to those zeroes and ones, how much value do you place on your corpus? £1,000,000?

At a conference last year, someone I spoke to proudly informed me that they were rolling out a new one million pound SAN (storage area network). This underlined that enterprise infrastructure is expensive to purchase as well as being expensive to operate and maintain. Their CIO must be very brave to justify that spend to the board when many of their peers are embracing cloud computing. File, block and object storage have all now entered the utility era. If you draw a parallel to electricity, the majority of businesses require electricity but, ignoring backup generators, how many operate power stations? At utility prices, £1m could pay for the object storage of hundreds of terabytes for hundreds of months.
[Note: 200TB for 20 years is ~$1.13m on S3 at current prices – ignoring price reductions, inflation etc.]

Digital Transformation

Underpinning a successful digital transformation relies on a number of key capabilities, e.g.:

  • Ubiquitous Accessibility to Content
  • Collaboration
  • Granular Content
  • Discoverability

These all place demands upon the storage foundation.

Content access

A centralised, global repository is key to achieving this objective, provided that it can also handle assets, metadata and relationships in addition to content. So ‘storage’ in this context is not purely about the raw content files. The applications necessary to service the full content lifecycle have additional requirements including search indices and databases. The principle behind the NoSQL movement of the last decade is to use the best tool for the job. This may necessitate a broader polyglot data persistence strategy as part of the transition, which will bring new challenges for your IT operations team.

Collaboration

Looking beyond the boundary of the corporate headquarters, organisations need to consider how their distributed teams and partners, particularly those in regional edge locations, will access content and products. Without the supporting infrastructure in place, any current problems with high-res print workflows will only be exacerbated by the increasing trend of video content.

Granularity

Granular content, in non-binary formats, is vital for reuse, as well as facilitating long term access to the content. Therefore, as part of digital transformation planning, organisations need to consider the impact of both the information architecture and the infrastructure upon migration planning.

Discoverability

Storage is a key component for discoverability, a centralised repository simplifies the task of surfacing content and metadata for discovery.

The good news is that this can all be achieved! This is the first in a series of articles that will explore these themes in greater detail.

Date Published : 05th of April 2017

Robin Bramley

Published by : Robin Bramley

About the Author : Robin Bramley is Chief Scientific Officer at Ixxus, and has architected many distributed systems over the past 15 years. Robin has presented at various international conferences and London meet-ups; he also writes for GroovyMag, including an article on CMIS integration with Alfresco that NASA requested the source code for.