4 min read

Breaking Free of File System Hierarchies (Without the Bloodshed)

A Former Prisoner’s Tale...

Like many of you, I once was a slave to the maniacal regimen of organizing files into strict hierarchies, only to find that despite my best intentions, I couldn’t adhere to it. Those senior moments when I failed to recall the name, much less the directory I had placed a file in, heightened the frustrations. And then there was the ongoing collaboration fiasco. Without realizing the errors of my ways, I occasionally created new copies of previously shared files in new locations without telling anyone else. Let’s just say that my colleagues were “discouraged” to hear that they had been working off an old copy for the past week.

I can’t take all of the blame. Part of the problem arose after our designated marketing file share ran out of capacity. IT scrambled to relocate some of our folders to other file servers that had some vacancies. Occasionally, they were kind enough to host especially-valuable files in one of the two main network attached storage (NAS) systems in the Ft. Lauderdale campus. That’s four possible places they could end up in. More confusion!

Another force was also at work. The periodic purge- more euphemistically referred to as archiving. You know the drill. “We will be cleaning up the file shares next weekend. Any files older than twelve months will be backed up and removed to make room for new stuff.” Good luck trying to restore last year’s version of the video training clips after that. They’re off in la-la land.

You’d think with all the file searching and indexing tools this would not have been such a calamity – yet it was. And all of our departments fell victim to it. Guessing you may be too.

Technically, three issues lie at the root of these struggles

  1. Hierarchical dependency – Each one of us organizes our folders and subdirectories differently, and we’re not that reliable at doing it the same way every time. In addition, the hierarchies are tied to the physical location where the files are stored, which we as users don’t control.
  2. Fractured namespaces – Each file server and NAS can only scan what is inside of it. They have no knowledge of neighboring file shares. So one must first know which filer to start on before a search can succeed. And more often than not, we encounter duplicates.
  3. Distant archives – When files are put out to pasture, they go into a different namespace altogether, no longer visible under the active catalog. Should you need one, IT must dispatch a search party for them based on hints from its original owner, exacerbating the anxiety.

Solution – An uber catalog (a.k.a. global namespace) spanning the scattered filers

Through the science of distributed file and object storage virtualization, my company, DataCore Software, can create an overarching searchable catalog across groups of file servers and NAS, while preserving access controls. The process is called assimilation.  Essentially, an instance of DataCore™ vFilO™ file storage solution on the sidelines takes inventory of the shares, their folders, subfolders and files, generating a database of their attributes. Their name, location, owner, last modified date, permissions, and other properties make up this uber catalog. The actual files remain untouched.

The software goes a few steps further. It lets you apply tags to the files that help associate them with projects, their importance, and content. My teammates and I can now use simple keywords to search the uber catalog for specific files without having to know which file server or NAS they reside in. And there’s more.

The software learns the remaining capacity in each filer and can detect whether it is responsive or sluggish. IT can assign relative values and cost to each one so that the vFilO software can make appropriate load balancing and data placement decisions.

vfilo autonomic data placement diagram

Lower-cost cloud storage can be included as a resource under the same namespace. Any files that have gone unused for the last twelve months can be automatically and quietly relocated (archived) there without any alarming notices. They will be deduped and compressed to save space. Yet the files remain visible because the uber catalog knows where they moved to.

Now, I can a) find last year’s video training clips and b) retrieve them without assistance, as if they had never left my laptop? The vFilO software rehydrates the video and migrates it to a filer that has adequate room for it.

Let’s just say that we no longer waste hours hunting for the right document and IT can attend more easily to our explosive storage needs.

We’ve broken the shackles of file system hierarchies and never spilled a drop of blood doing it. So can you.

Contact us to see for yourself.

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