Why Santa’s CTO has it easy

A laptop, sitting on a desk, being used by Santa Claus

Posted on Friday, December 23, 2016

Every year, Santa visits all the children of the world, delivering presents to those judged to have been good over the past twelve months. Such an undertaking would be huge under any circumstances, but the fact that one man completes the task aided by nothing more than a dozen reindeer in a single night is an incredible feat.

A major data undertaking

According to the most recent statistics from Unicef, there are 2.2 million children living across the world. In the age of Big Data, this list of names and addresses would represent a relatively modest database, requiring very little by way of storage – probably less than 20TB.

But Santa’s database is slightly more complex, collecting and storing information on every child’s behaviour too. Keeping a running tally of every “good” and “bad” incident would create a huge dataset. Santa could help to limit data growth by providing an overall good or bad score for each day, creating just 365 records per child each year. This would see his overall data store growing to a more enterprise-like 7.3 petabytes.

Once every year, Santa needs to run a query to determine who has been good and bad, processing all 7.3PB to give an overall score that will determine his itinerary for the Christmas Eve.

Why Santa has it easy

The reality is that this process, although large in scale, is relatively straightforward. Santa need only run his good/bad algorithm once per year for instance.

And although the world’s population continues to grow, even the addition of hundreds of millions of new records is nothing extraordinary. Every enterprise-class organisation adds at least tens of millions of new records to their datasets each year.

More importantly though, Santa need only keep his records for one year at a time. Every Christmas Day, the slate is wiped clean, and children restart the good/bad assessment from scratch. Without any need for historical analysis, or any kind of legal compliance requirements, Santa is free to drop every record and start from scratch. As the ultimate arbiter of good and bad, Santa is free from oversight or scrutiny – unlike you.

Tiny annual growth

With minimal data growth each year, and the luxury of being able to reuse his entire capacity from scratch every year, Santa’s outlay for new hardware is tiny. Despite being mission critical, the fact he has a year to assess behaviour data, means that he can get by using the same server system year after year. Santa’s platform is almost certainly several years out of warranty, no doubt supported and maintained by his army of elves rather than the OEM.

What can you learn from Santa?

Every year Santa proves that it is possible to run a global operation using post-warranty hardware to provide at least some of his capacity. Your business may not be able to use older hardware for mission-critical applications, but it can certainly be redeployed for storing the archive data you are required to keep.

You could even use older systems as part of a new software defined storage architecture to give you the flexibility demanded by your business strategy. Because if Santa can serve a multi-billion client base using older hardware, there’s a good chance you could too.

Next steps

To learn more about your post-warranty options, particularly in an SDS infrastructure, please get in touch.