One of the promises of software-defined storage (SDS) is the unification of storage services and the management of those services. The result should be a reduction in the cost to provision and manage storage resources. But some SDS solutions can carry this unification into the data protection process and deliver much the same result where it is badly needed. As data centers scramble to meet the increased recovery and availability expectations of the organization the data protection process is potentially more fragmented than the production storage infrastructure. If SDS can be extended to consolidate data protection while improving an organization’s ability to respond to more strict recovery point and recovery time objectives then its value to the organization is greatly increased, and in fact makes a great starting point for an SDS journey.
Backup Window Elimination
Snapshot technology can make near-instantaneous copies of data. The problem is that the snapshot is typically stored on the same physical storage system as the actual data, creating a single point of failure. Most storage vendors have a snapshot replication technology that allows them to copy snapshot data from one storage system to another. The problem is that this often requires replicating to an identically configured storage system. This is a very expensive proposition, out of reach of most data centers.
SDS solutions allow snapshot and replication to happen to a secondary system from a different vendor. This means the secondary system could be configured with less expensive, higher capacity hard drives. It could even be a hard disk-based system that compliments a production all-flash array. The SDS could then replicate this secondary system to a third, even more cost effective storage system in a remote facility for disaster recovery preparedness.
The SDS solution has to do more than just provide snapshots and replication. It should integrate with the application so that a reliable, clean copy can be made. In addition, it should also facilitate both the testing of a recovery situation as well as help an IT administrator through the recovery of an application in the event of an actual failure. Testing is particularly important. Storage Switzerland finds that the number one cause of a failed or delayed recovery is the lack of practice. But practice requires special considerations since the primary server and network are still operational. As a result, the SDS solution should facilitate the creation of private, “virtual-lab” for administrators to practice with.
Protection From Micro and Major Disasters
Leveraging an SDS solution as described above allows for protection from both micro and major disasters. A micro disaster is caused by application corruption, server outage or a storage system failure. A major disaster is a data center wide disaster caused by an act of God or a man-made event like a terrorist or cyber attack. The secondary storage system that is constantly updated via snapshot replication can provide data back to a corrupted application or a new host standing in for a failed one. It can also act as primary storage in the event of a primary storage system failure. Replication to the third storage system protects from fire, flood or other kinds of disaster.
A cyber attack may require a special type of protection and recovery. Often a cyber attack can impact both protection, secondary and tertiary storage since they are all online and accessible to a hack. Protection from this type of disaster is a secure offline copy of data. SDS systems should consider the integration of tape backup directly into their software so that an image of the secondary storage system can be made rapidly.
When used on production storage, SDS has the ability to improve operation efficiencies and increase an organization’s ability to respond to the demands of the business. The productivity gains on primary storage alone are enough to justify the software defined move. When the impact on data protection is factored in the value of SDS becomes almost too compelling. The ability to centralize data protection to a single store and then be able to quickly recover from a wide variety of failures can potentially more significantly reduce data protection costs than it can production storage costs. In fact, using SDS for data protection is an ideal first step into a software-defined future.
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