Serious Storage

This was our quarter million dollar server years ago.

This was our quarter million dollar server years ago.

Years ago I worked for a company that had a Novell network. We had a multi-server environment with lots of users and were having issues with both space and users. We bought a Netframe server, packed with 350MB drives and a limited edition 1000 user version of Netware v3.11. This was also the time when I got to use my C-language experience, writing a login utility that would handle our user IDs above 250 on Netware since that was the limit for all of our other servers.

That server, which cost something like $280,000 in 1991 was the biggest one on our network, with something like 8GB of storage. That seems like a pittance today, especially compared with the sale EMC just made. The Vatican is getting 2.8PB of storage from EMC for its library. EMC is also providing consulting services to digitize some of the historic manuscripts and documents that have been deteriorating from user and handling.  It’s an ambitious 9-year project, of which this is just the first 3 years.

That’s a serious amount of storage, and while most of it will be used for raw, unstructured storage of images, some will have to house a database. There will be the equally critical part of cataloging and organizing the meta data about these documents into some type of database. I don’t know if this will be a relational or some other store, but without some database that keeps track of what each image represents and how to retrieve it, it’s entirely possible that these documents might get lost, in the same manner they may be lost in physical storage today.

The scale of this project somewhat astounds me. Going from MB and GB to thinking about PB and EB is something many of us will deal with over the next decade as our organizations gather, store, and manage more and more data. Perhaps a few of us will get to work on some interesting projects like this one that look to preserve valuable knowledge from our past.

Steve Jones

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