BAM goes your storage needs

There's a new acronym on the horizon, and if it comes to pass it will wreak havoc on your storage requirements.

It's BAM, or business activity monitoring. Coined by analyst trend-setters Gartner Group almost two years ago, the idea is starting to gain some traction. Put simply, BAM is real-time monitoring of key business indicators.

BAM's different from "traditional" IT monitoring of systems and networks because it's used by end-users to help run the business. Want to know how late one of your major suppliers is in delivering an item you need in your product (and what else you might use from another supplier instead, and how that will impact your cost structure)? Has one of your largest warehouses been hit by a hurricane and you need to figure out which of your other facilities have the wherewithal to pick up the slack and what it's all going to cost and mean in terms of delivering goods to customers?

These are among the gazillions of questions that BAM will help business users answer. It's different from data warehouse applications or business intelligence because it's real-time, where the older technologies look at historical data and past trends. BAM will supplement these, of course, not replace them, in areas that the business execs deem important.

But it will all come at a huge price, in systems and software and, of course, storage. How much will depend on the number of real-time monitors you're building, for which applications, and where you're starting from with your existing infrastructure. But it's safe to say that BAM will require a whole new level of storage management tools, as well as the fastest (read: most expensive) arrays out there. Then there's the matter of bandwidth availability on your SAN, and a host of other issues.

Because the key with BAM is not simply collecting reams of data - it's the analysis tools and user interfaces that will be most important, in terms of what you do with the data after you've got it. But it's still going to require massive storage space to keep all the "raw" data so end-users can manipulate it in various ways. Hierarchical storage management will become critical here, too; all this data will need to migrate off to less expensive storage devices even more quickly than does information from today's applications. And it's all going to have to be automated, or at the very least policy-driven.

The good news from a storage admin perspective is that this all isn't going to happen overnight. BAM's just beginning to be a blip at even the largest companies. And it's gong to be implemented slowly, for one business function at a time. There are many enabling technologies that need to be in place first, including middleware and other means of integrating applications so they can exchange or share information, as well as real-time event collection engines that are built into applications from databases to CRM.

We've got a long time before BAM arrives anywhere beyond the world's largest corporations - probably at least a decade. But it will happen eventually, I'm betting. So you think you're quickly outgrowing your storage infrastructure now? Just wait. It's going to become even more interesting.

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