An Early IBM NENR Appliance Catches the WORM
February 15, 2010 Alex Woodie
IBM this month began shipping a new information archiving appliance that offers non-erasable, non-rewritable (NENR) storage capabilities. Based on IBM’s DR550 storage array, the Information Archive version 1.1 can ingest data via Network File System (NFS), which is supported by the System i and every other server, and is being positioned as an ideal archive solution for medium sized companies with legal or regulatory information retention obligations.
A raft of new regulations last decade drove organizations to adopt stricter data protection measures. About five years ago, there was a big rush to so-called Write Once, Read Many (WORM) technologies, which IBM added to its tape and disk storage devices to guarantee a high level of long-term tamper resistance. Now, WORM is out, and the new term of the day is NENR, another rich acronym that sounds more like a playground taunt than the wiggly creatures children sometimes play with.
IBM’s first NENR offering is the Information Archive, which was announced January 26 and shipped February 5. IBM’s goal with creating the Information Archive was to create an easy-to-use and tamper-proof hierarchical storage environment for structured and unstructured documents–such as databases, documents from productivity applications, e-mails, audio and video streams, and the contents of existing native file systems and data archives–whose retention is covered by legal, business, or regulatory mandates.
The Information Archive is basically a special version of the System x-based DR550 array (which IBM launched nearly five years ago) with IBM archiving software preloaded onto it. The base 2231 machine type is a rack-mounted DR550 frame that comes with a disk controller and a single drawer loadable with up to sixteen 1 TB SATA disks and one disk controller. Customers can outfit each drawer in increments of eight disks, giving the Information Archive a starting capacity of 8 TB raw, or 3.6 TB usable. Data is protected by RAID-6.
The appliance, which is powered by a pair of quad-core X64 processors attached to 24 GB of memory, can be loaded with up to six expansion drawers, giving a fully populated base frame a capacity of 112 disks, or 112 TB of raw capacity (72.9 TB usable). With the optional expansion rack (2231-IS3), customers can add two more disk controllers and up to 10 expansion drawers, giving the Information Archive a maximum capacity of 304 TB of raw data, or 198 TB of usable data.
The Information Archive uses the concept of a “collection,” or a logical container, to store groups of structured and unstructured business data, and to define the different retention and access requirements for each group. Each Information Archive appliance can be configured to have up to three collections. That doesn’t sound like much, and the reason for that is each collection requires its own dedicated disk controller. And since the appliance can only support three disk controllers (and then, only if the customer has purchased and connected the expansion rack), three is the magic number.
Data is ingested into the appliance over a LAN or VPN through four 1 gigabit Ethernet ports. Any application that supports NFS can store data on the appliance. Alternatively, the appliance can ingest data from applications that support IBM’s Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) API or the TSM archive client. Users can search and access the documents in the archive through a Web-based GUI. Administrators are also provided a GUI for configuring the collection, defining storage policies for those policies, and for monitoring the archive.
The appliance offers two types of NENR document retention policies. The first is time-based retention, whereby the document will not become eligible for deletion until the allotted time has elapsed. The second is event-based retention. A document cannot be deleted while either form of retention is in effect, IBM says. To help simplify administration, the software supports three protection levels: basic, intermediate, and maximum. Customers can also turn the NENR mode off, but documents will not be offered the same level of protection from deletion.
IBM hopes the Information Archive is adopted by existing customers, including DR550 users who are running its System Storage Archive Manager software, as well as users of IBM’s N series systems; the appliance can serve as a parallel storage repository to N series systems, IBM says. The appliance can also serve as a storage repository for other IBM products, including Content Collector, Content Manager, FileNet, Optim, and Domino. Other vendors supporting the archive on the launch date were Open Text, Microsoft, Genus Technologies, and more.
The Information Archive supports tape as part of its hierarchical storage environment. In that configuration, documents or data slated for long-term storage would be moved to a WORM-supported tape drive or library.