Archive storage solutions for ERP are rarely an option: Page 3

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Disk storage costs plummeting

Steadily falling prices for disk hardware is a major contributor to declining datacenter costs (annual acquisition and maintenance cost per gigabyte).

Annual acquisition and maintenance costs or disk hardware in large datacenters (>800 MIPS) fell from $1,150 per gigabyte in 1996 to $910 per gigabyte in 1997. Smaller datacenters (<300 MIPS) followed a similar pattern. Based on its surveys of hundreds of datacenters around the world, Robert Gold, practice leader for integrated services at the IT management consulting firm Compass America Inc., of Reston, Va., says that current prices have dropped below $300 per gigabyte.

Graph indicates disk storage costs are dropping by as much as 20 per cent per year.

Source: Compass America Inc., www.compassamerica.com

"We looked at the total data storage required by all of our existing systems and then determined what the initial load was going to be for our new SAP system. Then we anticipated a growth rate in documents of about 25% per year, but we should have been closer to 50%," says Jeff Jones, the former manager, planning and operations, information technology with Fujitsu Microelectronics. Jones is now the president of IT consultancy Cross-Jones and Jones Consulting, of Milpitas, Calif., as well as a board member of the Chicago-based American SAP User Group (ASUG). "[At Fujitsu,] we didn't anticipate that by going to an integrated ERP system, which was totally online, certain user groups [would need] to archive all of their reports. So by the end of the first year, we had to double our disk space," he says.

How much storage you need is largely dependent on understanding what your users need to retain and how long they need it retained in a usable format.

"You have to really understand your users' requirements, how long they need to retain certain data and what type of retrieval they need before you can determine how much storage you need," iXOS' Klaren says. "It depends more on a company's thought process and methodology than on how much data it has, because some companies may be so risk-averse that they want to keep every single thing in the database for 20 years. Other companies are willing to remove certain types of transactions after one year. There is always a balance between the technical people, who would like to get rid of the data yesterday, and the users, who want to keep it around forever."

The amount of storage needed also depends on the type of data that must be archived and how fast that data is growing.

"I talked to a semiconductor company recently that does 70 sales orders a year, but two of its sales contracts are with IBM to crank out chips and account for one-third of the revenue. So they don't worry too much about archiving financial information. On the other hand, they generate huge manufacturing-related transaction tables. That's where the growth of their infrastructure is," AMR's Tirone explains. "But retail companies with tens or hundreds of thousands of transactions per day generate different table growths."

The type of company and how fast the database is growing also may enter into the equation.

Automated tape library costs

Automated tape technology is changing rapidly, with capacity doubling every four years (annual hardware acquisition and maintenance cost per slot).

Small (<50K slots) and medium-sized (50K to 100K slots) datacenters are migrating from 18-track to 36-track tape technology to increase per-slot data capacity. In large (>100K slots) datacenters, chiefly as a result of this migration, annual hardware acquisition and maintenance costs per slot have showed an upward spike, from $22 in 1996 to $27 in 1997.

 Graph of Automated tape library costs.

Source: Compass America Inc., www.compassamerica.com

A specialty-devices manufacturer with a current database of 1.2 terabytes and about 1,000 users is growing at 60 gigabytes a month, and employees there have been archiving historical data fast and furiously, recalls Tirone. The company managed to cut its monthly growth by half and hopes to stabilize the database at 1.5 to 2 terabytes. In contrast, a discrete manufacturer with about the same number of users but a simpler process has a database that is growing at 11 to 15 gigabytes per month because it doesn't have the same business need for transactions. This database topped out at 270 gigabytes, but the company has managed to archive the database down to 210 gigabytes.

Storage doesn't come cheaply

In the intangible sense, archived information takes longer to access than information residing on the primary system. If the CD with the information you need isn't mounted, for example, it can take several seconds or even minutes to gain access. Multiplied by dozens of disk loadings each day, the wasted time and money start to add up.

There are solutions to even this minor problem, however. Some companies keep archived data in a disk cache for 10 days before moving it to optical storage, on the theory that the data is more likely to be accessed during that first 10 days.

Archiving costs in terms of real dollars as well. The archiving hardware represents about 10% of the total storage costs, while the archiving software adds another 20% to 25%. The rest of the cost resides in labor, support, implementation, and administration.

Jones says the first-year archiving costs for Fujitsu Microelectronics, which included hardware, software, and support, ran about $200,000. But the software is a one-time cost, and hardware storage media is relatively inexpensive. Yee estimates Chevron Canada's annual incremental storage costs at $20,000 to $25,000.

But none of this matters if your company hasn't put enough priority on the concept of archiving in the first place. "Typically, customers won't address the archiving issues during the first two years, but after they see two years of growth, they start to address it," SAP America's Farren notes.

"At Fujitsu, we tried our best to ignore archiving," Jones says. "There were more important things to take care of, from management's point of view. That attitude really burned us when we got to the point where we couldn't back up our systems. And that's what finally moved Fujitsu to look at archiving."

Karen D. Schwartz is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. Based in the Washington, D.C. area, she can be reached at karen.schwartz@bigfoot.com.

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