Data protection for the last 30 years has gone through a tremendous amount of innovation. W Curtis Preston (aka Mr. Backup) sketched out five phases of major development in its history in his backup blog. Here’s how the story goes.
It first all started with centralized network backups which was implemented by companies like Veritas, Legato, IBM, Commvault. Next was deduplication of the backup target. This was brought to market by Avamar, Data Domain and Quantum. Next up, virtualization-centric backups by Veeam. And when HCI (hyperconverged infrastructures) became mainstream, Cohesity and Rubrik released its simplified API-driven software platforms. And finally, we’re now in the cloud “data protection as a service” phase.
With all these phases of innovation, what does it exactly mean to be a “modern data protection” solution?
Well, a modern data protection solution addresses several new areas in the data protection world. First, IT security has never been more important than it is today. And how does IT do anything anymore without some sort of automation? Here are my requirements for a modern-day data protection solution.
Modern Data Protection Features
The most obvious features for a modern-day backup and recovery solution are its easy to setup, simple to scale and has a lower TCO than your current solution. But what separates the leaders from the pack is having the ability to leverage these four features:
1. SLA Automation.
SLA automation changes everything. A modern data protection solution should have near-zero RTO and an adaptive RPO. What this means is having the ability to globally search for any data and then be able to instantly bring it back to life, whether it’s a file or a complete VM.
The ability to instantly restore data first requires the solution to be able to rapidly ingest backups. Whether you use hardware-based snapshots or use methods to have “stun-less” VM snapshots, the data protection solution needs to be able to take rapid and frequent data copies driven by an SLA automation policy engine. Often this requires the use of flash-based backup targets (the fact is 95% of restores come from the most recent backup) or it could be implemented using APIs via continuous data protection mechanism.
Another great feature with having an SLA automation engine for backups is the ability to quickly validate the integrity of the backup. We have clients that will backup their SQL Server, live mount the backup image in a sandbox environment, and then run database corruption tests via DBCC statements to ensure they will have a good restore if necessary. All this done automatically by the backup solution.
2. Built-in Cybersecurity Protections.
Modern-day data protection must have built-in IT security controls. For starters, it should provide proactive patch management. That is, you should be able to backup a VM, live mount it in a sandbox environment, patch it, test and validate it. Once validated, you can automatically patch the production environment.
Now unfortunately today, having built-in security for your backup solution also means fighting against ransomware. It is now the backup solution responsibility to fully ensure data integrity of the backup sets. And that means the backups must be immutable to ransomware!
3. Smart Cloud / Object Storage Integration.
As a Google Certified Cloud Architect, I often need to correct people that cloud storage doesn’t have to mean off-premise. There are several great on-premise object storage solutions that can seamlessly integrate into your backup process. Once your data is archived into an object store, there really isn’t any reason to back it up anymore. Object storage, which is designed around storing massive quantities of files, especially media-rich files like documents, images, and video, durability becomes especially important, is extremely durable (11’s nines of durability). That’s 99.999999999%. Conceptually, if you store 1 million objects for 10 million years, you would expect to lose 1 file. There’s a higher likelihood of an asteroid destroying Earthwithin a million years.
The reason modern day backup solutions need a “smart cloud” implementation is that off-premise public clouds (read AWS, GCP and Azure) have egress and storage tier fees. Smart cloud data protection implementations take this into consideration and optimize cloud fees relating to the management of backup data. Frequently accessed backup data would obviously be on-premise while older backup sets would be archived to “cold”, lower cost cloud storage buckets.
Other “smart cloud” features for backup solutions include the ability to provide content-aware data deduplication and tier storage optimization. Whether your backup data is on- or off-prem, you still don’t want to use any more storage than necessary, especially if it’s in the cloud. Most dedupe and compression algorithms now get an 80% data reduction from the backup data. Generally this occurs at the sub-VM/sub-VMDK level and backup data is ingested first to a flash tier and then deduped/compressed.
Data sprawl is a huge challenge particularly because secondary data. This includes backup data sets, disaster recovery environments, file shares, test/dev data, archives. Generally secondary data is fragmented across a patchwork of point products and storage silos, whether it’s kept in the data center or in the cloud. But by consolidating this data tier, organizations can greatly reduce the time and costs associated with their backups in general. Not only does it streamline backups for all this secondary data, but it also allows you to actually use this data and extract business value from it.
For example, using this data you can streamline IT compliance, scale-out NAS for user home directories, fully orchestrate DR to the cloud, or provide quick test/dev environments, not to mention being able to incorporate data analytics against it. How’s that for adding some value from good ye olde backups?
Most data protection solutions in production today can be modernized, some easier than others, and there are several solutions today that can do this right out of the box. Let us know if you’re interested in hearing about how you can simplify and modernize your backup solution. We’re here to help and save your IT dollars.