Data archiving

Buzzword or strategy for data retention and compliance

Issue 1, 2015

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Steady information growth in organizations may jeopardize data retention obligations especially when the need to retain data for a very long time is required for regulatory compliance. In this context, an effective data archiving solution becomes a business necessity to include in your IT department’s toolkit. Learn what Software AG customers have to say about whether data archiving is strategy or just a buzzword.
 

The relevance of data archiving

The growing number of regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and similar laws in Europe, is driving the need to retain data for a longer duration. We asked our customers how they fulfill their compliance mandate.

To our surprise, the scope of answers was wider than expected. Some customers said they just use their backup system as their data archive. This probably explains why manufacturers of backup systems recently started to provide bigger metadata tables and better content search capabilities to address at least some basic archiving functionality. By implementing such features, these manufacturers have, to a certain degree, validated the relevance and importance of data archiving.

While we don’t recommend using a backup system to archive data, it at least meets one important requirement in that data is retained. A real data archiving solution does so much more, not least of which is to manage data retention through the use of rules.

Our customers tell us that archiving solutions should:

  • Allow indexing of archives to simplify data search
  • Archive all data related to a particular business object at the same time
  • Ensure archived data is meaningful to the business
  • Allow automatic data adaptation and mapping during recall
  • Allow archives to be converted into additional formats (i.e., XML and  custom)

Data archiving is not about extracting complete databases or files. Only selected data that is no longer needed for operational use should be archived and moved off of the database. However, in the context of data retention, the archiving solution should also enable you to keep a copy of a certain version of data without deleting it from the primary database. This should be either possible for the whole business object or just for parts of it—for example, only for the related data in case this data is still operational.

When archived data is recalled, it should still be meaningful to the business. All related data must also be available at this time and therefore in the archive as well. The archiving solution must be able to archive and extract complete business objects even if related data is in other files or databases, which is often the case due to operational or historical reasons. For example, if you choose to archive order data, you also want to archive the specifics of each item in the order, as well as information about the customer.

Archived data must be operational when recalled as well. If the metadata (Adabas FDT) has changed over time, data should be adapted and properly mapped during recall. This ensures that the current version of the application also works with the archived data, which was stored when a different FDT version was used in a different version of the application or even a different application altogether.
 

Operational benefit of archiving

We also asked people in the IT departments of our customers what value they see in data archiving. Since one main responsibility of IT professionals is to keep costs under control, they like solutions that reduce storage and CPU time consumption.

Interestingly enough, customers using the Software AG data archiving solution reported the biggest CPU time savings in the area of operational batch jobs. By removing historical data, the operational database size decreased, thus reducing the CPU consumption of hundreds of batch jobs by more than 50 percent.
 

Buy or build?

Is it better to purchase a data archiving solution from a software manufacturer like Software AG or build it yourself? If you say archiving is neither new nor rocket science to you, then it may make sense for you to quickly implement some needed functionality on your own.

When no archiving solution was available from Software AG, there was no alternative to satisfy the business need for data archiving but to build it yourself. That is one of the reasons why home-grown solutions spread across the IT world.

Today’s requirements from the business side are rapidly changing and the cost to adapt home-grown systems may easily exceed the original implementation cost. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for these solutions is even more difficult to keep under control if your company’s system operations have been outsourced. This is why many organizations are looking into buying a data archiving solution.

There is another reason why more and more customers are deciding to migrate to the Software AG archiving solution. Typically, any necessary adaptation of their home-grown archiving solution requires programming skills in Natural, Assembler or JCL. Due to the ever-shrinking group of people with this skill set, organizations may find labor a bottleneck in meeting urgently required changes from the business side.

Data Archiving for Adabas was developed with the goal of keeping TCO low. Due to the ability to define rules, most of the work and later changes can be done in the browser-based user interface by many people in the company. Once everything is defined properly, the rules-based archive generation process is fully automated. If necessary, it can also be integrated into your existing system operations environment, independent of whether it’s on mainframe, Linux®, UNIX® or Windows® (LUW).
 

Compliance is more than data retention

Data archiving is an excellent tool for keeping data for very long periods of time. With the help of rules, business requirements and compliance, in terms of government regulations and law, can be described and implemented. For example, due to government law, a telecommunication company has to store connection information for at least one year. When this data is three months old, per definitions of the telco, it’s not needed any more for operational use and becomes historical.

With the Software AG archiving solution, just a rule needs to be defined to extract historical data off of expensive primary storage. The rule assures that at the end of each month, the archive will be automatically created and all historical data will be extracted by using the defined extraction logic. Of course, any archived data will still be available to the business through the use of the archiving solution’s data recall capabilities.

In addition to the requirements for data retention, there may also be government regulatory considerations, such as maintaining the data for a specific number of years and destroying the data once that period has elapsed. This is implemented by allowing archived data to be tagged with an expiration date.

Because data destruction has compliance relevance, the application of such an expiration date must form part of an archiving rule. This will enable the archiving solution’s automated processes to guarantee compliance.

Conclusion

Data archiving is not a buzzword, but a strategic need for organizations that must retain data for long periods of time to comply with regulations. Data Archiving for Adabas is a professional archiving solution that is easily integrated into many customer operational scenarios. While most of our customers have implemented it on mainframe (z/OS®), it’s also available on LUW. All functionality discussed in the article is available in the Software AG archiving solution.

Our customers most appreciate that Data Archiving for Adabas is:

  • Fully automated
  • Integrates into their system operations environment
  • Re-uses existing business logic (Natural or C-based) for selecting data to be archived
  • Includes browse and search capabilities
  • Leverages a browser-based user interface
  • Cross-platform capable (e.g., extract data from mainframe and archive on UNIX)

Do you have the technology and resources at your disposal to archive your data and be in compliance?

Learn more about Data Archiving for Adabas