The problem with 'what is your data worth?'

June 1, 2015

Every so often, people who are suggesting that you spend money on something will use the formulation of 'what is your data worth?' or 'your data should be worth ...' (often 'at least this much' follows in some variation). Let's ignore the FUD issues involved and talk only about another problem with this: it puts the cart before the horse by assuming that the data comes first and then the money arrives afterwards. Given data, you are called on to spend as much as required in order to deal with it however people think you're supposed to.

At least around here in the university, this is almost always exactly backwards. In reality the money comes first and we get however much data can fit into it. If not enough data can fit, people will compromise on attributes of the data such as the redundancy level, expensive storage systems with features that are not absolutely essential, and even performance. In extreme cases, people take a deep breath and have less data. What they basically never do is find more money so they can have better storage.

(Sometimes this works in reverse when the costs shift in our favour. Then we wind up with lots of storage and can shift some of the money to better, less compromised features. This is how we went from RAID 5 to RAID 1 storage.)

One part of this is almost certainly that we basically have no ROI. As part of this, the storage we tend to be buying is vague and fuzzy storage without firm metrics for things like performance and durability attached to it. Sure, more performance would be nice, but broadly there's nothing that you can point to to say 'our vital website/database/etc is not running well enough, this must be better'.

(Nor can we establish such metrics out of the air in any meaningful way. Real SLAs must come from business needs because that is the only way that money will be spent in order to satisfy them.)

I suspect that this situation is not entirely unique to us and universities. Businesses undertake any number of 'would be nice to have' things, and also they ultimately have constraints on how much money they can spend on even important things.

PS: there are limits on this 'any performance is acceptable', of course, but they tend to be comparatively way out in left field. Fundamentally there is no magic pot of money that we can get if we just make big enough puppydog eyes, so getting significantly more money basically needs to be a situation where there is a clear and pressing problem that is obvious to everyone, whether that is space or performance or redundancy or whatever.

Written on 01 June 2015.
« Unix has been bad before
What makes for a simple web application environment »

Page tools: View Source, Add Comment.
Login: Password:
Atom Syndication: Recent Comments.

Last modified: Mon Jun 1 23:44:00 2015
This dinky wiki is brought to you by the Insane Hackers Guild, Python sub-branch.