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Preventing Database Bloat With Archiving

Best practices in database archiving help maintain healthy disk-space capacity and prevent performance problems.

By Drew Robb
March 8, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Like waistlines, databases almost always grow much larger than their owners ever imagined. Instead of too many carbs, it's a regular diet of stodgy and unnecessary transactional information that leads to database obesity. Serious health problems can result, such as disappearing disk space, poor performance and screaming users upset about slow access rates or queries timing out.
"Our overweight database was months away from crashing due to exceeding our production disk-space capacity," says Larry Cuda, global data archiving and migration project leader at Kennametal Inc. in Latrobe, Pa. "Management determined that we could no longer just keep throwing more disks at the problem."
His SAP database was swelling at a rate of 27GB per month until Kennametal pared it down using eCONtext from Ixos Software AG in Grasbrunn, Germany. Transactions that used to take six seconds now take one, and the company saves an estimated $700,000 annually in terms of hardware acquisition costs alone, according to Cuda. The database maintains a trim 2TB figure, with another terabyte residing in rapid-access archives. The company has an HP-UX 64-bit environment for its SAP ERP applications as well as its Oracle 8.1 database.
With so many competing production demands, and differing U.S. and international data retention regulations to consider, archiving database information is never a quick fix. Companies must decide what they should archive, how they should go about it, which tools are available and which best practices apply.
Losing Wait
According to Meta Group Inc., data is growing at a rate of 125% per year, yet up to 80% of this data remains inactive in production systems, where it cripples performance. "To compound this problem, many enterprises are in the midst of compliance initiatives that require the retention of more data for longer periods of time, as well as consolidation projects that result in significant data growth," says Charlie Garry, senior program director at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group.
A laundry list of regulations makes any archiving endeavor an extremely complex affair: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, SEC Rule 17a, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and a host of other rules have transformed information management into a minefield of potential liability.
The legal ramifications of not having a way to archive information from databases can be grim. But there are also production reasons for formulating and activating an archiving strategy rapidly. Apart from running out of disk space as Kennametal experienced, companies report problems such as total system outages when the database requires too much processing, backup failures when there's too much data to back up in the available window,



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