Today’s expectations for always-on environments, coupled with the introduction of Big Data into enterprise environments are stretching the capabilities of today’s backup software well beyond what it was ever intended to solve. As such, enterprises can no longer look at backup software as a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
However, the change in perspective goes beyond even that. Vendors and users alike must change their view of backup and recovery from an infrastructure-centric view to a server-centric view. Today, I continue my interview with Quest Software Senior VP Walter Angerer, as we discuss the new directions that backup software must take in the enterprise.
Jerome: One of the things I see happening is that we are definitely on the road to recovery. The long standing problem of creating a good, initial copy of the data has largely been solved. As a result, I am seeing a turn in my conversations with end-users and vendors alike to topics such as recovery, search, or testing and development using that good copy of data How does this change how backup data is managed and stored as well as what sort of features should organizations now look for in backup software?
Walter: I definitely see the same trend and I am in total agreement with you. Five years ago, much of our focus was on making sure that we had at least had one good copy of the data. Today, we seem to have sufficiently solved that problem. So with that being the case, I think now the time has come when we need to really focus more of our attention on the recovery piece of the puzzle.
Already, there’s been a bit of a change in the backup infrastructure to accommodate for the introduction of disk into the backup process. But the next step, one that is coming on very strongly, is a keen focus on replication capabilities. Customers are finding out that quickly recovering virtual servers and large data sets – sometimes as quickly as within an hour – requires the use of frequent replication. That requires a different approach to data protection.
So we have reached a point where users can no longer just focus on backup jobs. Now, they need to focus on the needs of their organization in order to ensure that they can restore mission-critical applications within their respective recovery time objectives. That means thinking not just about data recovery, but operational recovery.
So, what do I mean by that? Not too long ago, backup or data protection mostly defined its scope around the ability to recover data. Now, not only do we need to focus on recovering the data, but we also need to focus on getting the email application or the transactional database back up and running. And fast.
That requires expanding the scope of backup and recovery outside of the data center, and it requires a shift from an infrastructure-centric view to a services-centric view that focuses on the actual services that IT needs to provide.
That’s the big shift in focus here; the paradigm shift, if you will. Before, it made sense to focus on storage and on the infrastructure. But the shift that has to happen now is one that results in a new focus; a focus on operational recovery. It’s going to center around our ability to enable fast application recoveries. So whether it’s the ability to granularly recover critical items that have been lost, or to provide a fast way of doing a full application or database recovery, that’s where we need to be headed as an industry.
Jerome: That brings up an interesting point. Many organizations are seeing year over year data growth of 50% or more as we shift to capturing more information about people and from devices rather than people simply creating data which was the way it was traditionally created in the past. How does that change the challenges associated with the rapid recoveries of critical applications and databases in light of shrinking recovery times? Further, what needs to happen to meet the service level agreements (SLAs) associated with them?
Walter: As we deal with explosive data growth and the need to quickly recover critical applications, we are going to have a strong need for a tiered approach to data protection and recovery. We’ll see the continued adoption of snapshots, CDP, and replication to supplement full and block-level incremental backups, which are then deployed in targeted parts of the environment to make sure that IT can deliver on specific SLAs.
IT can no longer afford to have lower tier forms of data protection for the parts of the environment that have lots of data or require quick recoveries. The one size fits all approach to data protection will no longer work. Organizations will have to get more specific as to what types of data protection technologies they are going to deploy in their environment, and for what applications.
Part of the challenge with that is that most legacy backup products on the market today have a very infrastructure centric view of the world. Instead of seeing all of the data associated with applications, the infrastructure-centric view of the world relates all data to a specific server, and that makes it really hard for organizations to understand how a portion of their infrastructure services a certain part of the business.
So again, what we’re going to have to do is change the way we view backup and recovery, such that we take a more services-centric view based on predefined SLAs. This will make it easier for organizations to use specific data protection tools for specific applications in order to achieve specific SLAs, while keeping other servers and applications on a lower cost data protection tier.
In Part I of this interview series Walter and I discuss how backup is changing and examine the quantum leaps forward that have occurred in how backup and recovery are done.
In Part III of this interview series, we look at how backup software is evolving in light of the new
challenges that server virtualization creates, in order to become
smarter, more agile and do a lot more than backup.
In Part IV of this interview series, we explore whether or not virtualization only backup software solutions can survive long term.
In Part V of this interview series, Quest Software lays out its future plans for vRanger and NetVault Backup.