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Forecasting Future Data Growth: How to Order Your Next Storage Shelf Before, Not After You Need It

In mostly anything that involves managing a team, a project, or a business unit, it’s very important to administer resources efficiently in order to attain your objectives. Hopefully, this can be done in the least-costly way possible. IT resources are, of course, no different than this. In fact, this is of special importance with IT resources, since with rapid data growth knocking on your door, storage related costs sometimes become prohibitively high.

In this article we are going to talk about forecasting data growth and the tools and approaches you can use for data prediction. From there, we’ll see how NetApp® Cloud Tiering service can be used as a low-cost, intelligent tiering solution that will enable you to grow capacity so you only have to purchase your next shelf when you want it, not when you need it.

Predicting Data Growth to Determine When to Purchase Your Next Shelf

When is the best time to purchase your next shelf? Storage is not just about capacity. Capacity is one of the key decision-making factors, but left alone, it doesn’t provide you with your best input for making a choice. There are cases where a storage unit will be using 80% of allocated space and you still won’t have to purchase new storage for another year.

Also, purchasing a storage unit well before you need it might have negative impacts: you might compromise capital upfront too soon, you may not get as good a market price as you could have had if you had waited, and there are additional maintenance costs that accrue from the moment you purchase the new machine.

When it comes to purchasing new storage, the best indicator is how much storage you will need in the future. You can only know that, by determining your data growth rate. But to determine this rate, you’ll need to go into the past in order to predict the future.

How can you do that? Collecting the storage usage data to determine your growth rate statistics is not necessarily an easy task. If you haven’t invested additional capital in specialized SRM (Storage Resource Management) tools, then you will probably need to go with a more manual approach.

SRM tools will give you all the capacity reporting and the data growth rate through defined time periods, plus other benefits such as data backups, network monitoring, and performance analysis. However, these tools represent an expenditure for IT resource management and are generally designed for large enterprises. 

Systems managed by NetApp ONTAP software, such as NetApp AFF and SSD-backed FAS, can leverage Active IQ® Unified Manager in this case. Unified Manager is a free GUI providing you with detailed real-time analytics to help you gauge the health and manage the resources of your ONTAP systems. You can use Unified Manager to manage your storage system’s health, performance, capacity, and data growth trends and optimize your investment in ONTAP systems. It is one click away from an easy installation in Windows, Linux, as physical or virtual hosts.

Aside from determining growth rate and capacity, an IT head might encounter other factors that might carry some weight when considering the best moment to purchase new equipment:This is a huge advantage that NetApp users have. When an SRM tool is not an option, using a manual approach for collecting storage usage data is a difficult alternative. Scanning disks with a less-costly disk scanning software, going through the history of existing backups and using that material to draw a rate, or simply keeping a regularly updated tally on an Excel sheet and using the future growth function are all ways in which smaller-sized businesses can tackle the challenge of determining their growth rate.

  • The company’s financial periods.
  • The defined threshold for a safety storage stock margin.
  • Data growth volatility.
  • Performance needs.
  • Tiering policy.

A tiering policy is a key factor when it comes to forecasting future purchases. As such, NetApp AFF and SSD-backed FAS system users now have a powerful new option for data tiering using the new Cloud Tiering service.

Grow with Your Data Using Cloud Tiering Service

NetApp Cloud Tiering service can help you put off making a new storage system purchase by intelligently place hot and cold data in your AFF and SSD-backed FAS systems. Hot data will be placed on SSDs while cold data is placed in a low-cost object storage, either in Amazon S3, Azure Blob or Google Cloud Storage, with more clouds soon to come.

Data not accessed for a user-defined period is sent to the cloud tier. Whenever a read request for that data comes in, the data is retrieved from the cloud tier and returned to the performance tier of your AFF or SSD-backed FAS. Cloud Tiering works seamlessly, with no changes required to your applications. You just pick the preferred tiering policy on a given volume and then Cloud Tiering does the rest, with no impact at all on current business workflows since it relies on the existing FabricPool technology offered by NetApp.

The main advantage an IT head will have with using Cloud Tiering is that it can free up valuable high-performance storage capacity in your main storage system to dedicate for other new workloads, while keeping the cold data in a low-cost tier. With Cloud Tiering, your AFF or SSD-backed capacity can be expanded up to 50X. If any of your backup storage units is an AFF or an SSD-backed FAS and is running out of space, you can also apply Cloud Tiering there and send all that cold data to the cloud. By integrating Cloud Tiering into your backup storage, you’re able to minimize its data center footprint and retain more backup copies for longer periods of time than before.

Since it is a cloud-based service, Cloud Tiering enables businesses and IT heads to avoid committing capital upfront for new hardware purchases, providing a more strategic OPEX spending model over CAPEX investment. With Cloud Tiering, you pay as you go, or better said, you pay as you grow. Consider how this technology could be a lifesaver if a storage admin is having difficulties predicting data growth rate or future capacity requirements but needs to make a move soon, or if the company is just having a hard time allocating budget for data center expansion. With a few easy steps, you’ll be ready to tier all the data you don’t use off your storage system, expanding its usage.

Besides not having to commit capital upfront, Cloud Tiering service can bring additional benefits:

  • Maximizing ROI for your AFF or SSD-backed FAS purchase.
  • Savings in TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) with your AFF of 30% with practically no impact in performance.
  • An easy first step to a cloud-based or hybrid-cloud strategy.

Buy the Next Storage Shelf When You Want It

When the time comes to analyze and determine if additional storage shelves are needed but things are a little bit foggy, either because budget is not available or because the data growth trend has become volatile, NetApp Cloud Tiering service can give you a point of advantage by putting all of your cold data in the cloud very easily, without compromising elevated sums all at once, freeing up space on your current AFF/SSD-backed FAS and reducing TCO.

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Oded Berman, Product Evangelist

Product Evangelist