Instead of Growing Your Disks, Try Shrinking Your Data

Despite the slowing economy, Logitech — the Fremont, Calif., maker of computer mice, trackballs, and other input devices — has seen its business grow steadily over the past couple of years.

Along with that growth has come a steady growth in the company’s disk farms.

Like most companies, Logitech simply added more disk to handle the ever growing databases. But now, the firm is about to experiment with a new approach: pruning its data.

To do that, it is installing software from OuterBay Technologies, which promises to sift inactive data out of its production database.

Logitech has been running its business on Oracle applications for the last five years. Both the applications — Logitech is running version 11.0.3 of Oracle financials, manufacturing and other ERP software — and the Oracle 8 database behind them, sit on IBM Unix servers at the company’s datacenter in California.

The firm’s core production system wasn’t the only thing eating up disk space. Logitech also had various copies of the database for development and testing.

With its storage needs growing at a rate of two to five gigabytes a month, says Logitech vice-president of world wide information technology Dan Poulin, the company has “had a healthy appetite for storage technology.”

Logitech wanted to rein in the costs of regularly buying new hard drives. It also found that as its data grew, it was becoming increasingly unwieldy to manage.

“The more data you have to move around, the more it slows you down,” says Poulin. “you need more DBAs, you need more technical people, it takes you longer to get databases prepared for projects. There’s a lot of overhead involved.”

Logitech wanted to identify old data that it could move out of its production database, and either archive or move onto less expensive storage technology.

Oracle’s software “has some basic capabilities for purging data, but it’s not a transaction-logical purge, it’s by specific rows and tables,” says Poulin.

So last year, Logitech began looking at software from Campbell, Calif. based OuterBay, which offers the ability to identify business transactions that have been completed, and can therefore safely be moved out of the production database.

Logitech plans on implementing OuterBay’s LiveArchive software this quarter.

Most backup or archive software simply looks at the time since a particular piece of data was accessed, says OuterBay’s CEO, Michael Howard.

But just because a piece of data isn’t accessed, he says “doesn’t mean it doesn’t have relevance to other parts of the system. If you move it without knowing whether it’s part of something else, you can orphan data from transactions and break business processes.”

OuterBay has built policies into its product “to determine what is eligible to be relocated. The policies are not based on time, but on the completion of that type of business transaction,” says Howard.

“With most ERP systems, 60% to 80% of the data in the databases is dormant or inactive information, which is very infrequently used. Removing it from the system shortens backup windows, improves performance and lets people close their books on time.”

Removing that inactive data from the production database is exactly what Logitech hopes to achieve.

“Since we use one single instance of Oracle’s ERP to support our worldwide business around the clock, its important that we keep this down to a reasonable size,” says Poulin.