Technologies like application virtualization have given end users increasingly more choice in today’s IT marketplace. New business services can be rapidly spun up on-demand, either in the four walls of the data-center or out into a cloud service provider’s (CSP) facility. This dynamic is making it increasingly critical for IT managers to be more flexible and offer more choices to their internal end users when it comes to providing data protection services.
The Choice Is Now
Due to this “culture of choice”, application owners can choose to consume IT backup services, roll-their own or go to a CSP to meet their needs. How IT responds to this new competitive environment may ultimately determine their long-term relevancy to the organization.
In the past, enterprise backup was generally treated as a “one-size-fits-all” solution and was forced upon the user. After all, most enterprise backup applications provide thorough coverage of commonly used off the shelf business application software, databases, email applications etc. Furthermore, most businesses are clamoring for internal standards to drive consolidation initiatives so standardizing on a single backup application seems to make sense.
Less is Not Always More
By consolidating backup services on to a single backup application and backup hardware infrastructure, organizations can reduce operational complexity, mitigate risk and drive lower costs for the business. While this seems like a sound rationale for mandating backup standards, in many instances, this approach produces outcomes that are contrary to what IT is trying to achieve.
Only The Paranoid Survive?
Many application owners, for example, are intensely neurotic about protecting their business data assets. In fact, it is not uncommon for application owners to assume direct control over the data protection process itself. Database administrators, for example, are notorious for maintaining multiple copies of database tables, redo logs and indexes on primary storage and tape using tools like Oracle RMAN so that they can quickly recover data on the fly. The challenge is this contributes to infrastructure sprawl in the data center as multiple, independent silos of backup spring up.
Likewise, due to corporate acquisitions, it is typical for an organization to have multiple backup applications in use throughout the enterprise. It takes time and a lot of effort to consolidate on to a single backup application, so during this transition it is essential for IT to ensure that data is being protected and efficiently stored.
The question is, how can IT entice their end-users to consume in house backup infrastructure technology so that key data center consolidation initiatives can be achieved and their role within the organization can be enhanced?
Bridging the Gap
One of the keys for increasing end user adoption of IT backup services is deploying infrastructure solutions that are backup application software agnostic and that can provide extended data protection capabilities. Technologies which can support multiple backup applications simultaneously, like Symantec NetBackup, Commvault Simpana, EMC NetWorker, IBM TSM and others, gives IT the flexibility to allow their end users to continue using their existing data protection tools and/or to use backup tools provided by the IT organization. In addition, if these solutions can enable end users to securely store more copies of their backup data on disk storage more efficiently than their current platform, while seamlessly integrating with their existing backup tools, there is a greater likelihood that they will consume these services.
Equally important is the ability to efficiently replicate backup data offsite nightly to ensure that critical backup application data is always DR ready. This could be offered as an additional tiered service or it could be bundled together as a total data protection offering. Regardless, it would give IT the ability to offer a comprehensive data-as-a-service offering that would meet the varied data protection needs of their internal end users; providing further differentiation than the point backup solutions often managed by application owners.
Data Protection Catalogue
But disk based data deduplication and backup replication isn’t enough, if IT could also utilize the same backup repository for storing archived data that is subject to regulatory compliance, this could give end users a “one stop shop” for all their backup and archiving needs. In short, this would enable IT to offer a true backup services catalogue replete with multiple backup offerings that can be truly customized to meet the unique requirements of their end user community.
Meeting Consolidation Mandates
The benefits of this type of architecture would not only allow IT organizations to more effectively compete with internal and external (Cloud) backup solutions but it would also enable them to drive backup infrastructure consolidation. No longer would there be a need to have separate point backup solution silos amongst multiple application owners, nor would there be a need to have discrete storage repositories for backup and archive data.
In addition, by creating a multi-tenant backup infrastructure that is securely shared amongst multiple backup application owners, IT can drive even greater backup storage efficiencies since all production data is universally backed up and deduplicated on the same target backup resource. This helps create improved economies of scale for all users and in some instances, there will be less of a need to retain more backup images on expensive primary storage – resulting in still more cost savings.
Simplified Backup and Recovery
Another benefit for integrating a common disk backup repository for multiple applications is that it simplifies data recovery efforts. Since multiple backup images can be maintained on disk, most data recoveries will be performed off the disk-based appliance. This can help improve backup and recovery service levels, resulting in improved internal customer satisfaction.
Many IT organizations today are at a crossroads with respect to how they offer up enterprise backup services to their internal customers. They can either take a bureaucratic approach, which mandates the use of a specific, monolithic backup application service, or they can take a services bureau approach that provides their internal users with flexibility and choice for how they protect their data assets. Ultimately, business application owners will turn towards those service options which best meet their individual needs – whether it is a “roll-your-own” solution, a service provided by IT or a service provided by an external CSP.
For this reason it is critical for IT organizations to consider open backup infrastructure solutions, like the EMC Data Domain system, to meet the varied requirements of their internal customers. By deploying an EMC Data Domain appliance, IT organizations can seamlessly integrate multiple backup applications ranging from traditional backup offerings like Symantec NetBackup and EMC NetWorker, to newer virtualization backup applications like Dell’s VRanger and Veeam all on to the same appliance. In addition, native backup application tool sets like Oracle RMAN can also be used to backup critical database data to the same appliance resource.
This has the dual benefit of enabling data center backup consolidation while allowing IT to offer data protection as-a-service with multiple backup and data protection options, like more frequent point-in-time backups, offsite replication and data archival. This approach more closely resembles how IT services are being offered up in the open market by cloud service providers. By presenting end users with flexible deployment options for protecting critical application data and empowering them to either maintain control of the data protection process or “outsource” it entirely to IT, IT organizations can have more success retaining their internal customers, adding value to the organization and being seen as a strategic arm of the business.
EMC is a client of Storage Switzerland