Using Open Data Management to enable IT Transformation

Enterprises are looking for a way out. Out of the trap of a data center made up of closed systems and into a data center that is open so that they can drive down costs and be more responsive to the needs of the business. As data centers move to this new open frontier, data management remains a critical concern. Many of these open infrastructures are sorely lacking in terms of core data management capabilities. IT Professionals are looking for a data management solution that will not only provide the same capabilities that they are accustomed to in their legacy data center, but also assist them in making the transformation.

What is IT Transformation?

The traditional data center is a fragmented collection of technology silos that do not interoperate well. Within these silos are vendor specific software and hardware where the vendor is the only source of innovation. They are closed environments whose primary purpose is to lock the customer into a long-term relationship.

IT executives are embarking on IT transformation to a more open environment built on open software and hardware. This openness is not necessarily open source though; open in this context means that the vendor has provided free access to the data that they store. These vendors typically also provide an API, enabling external orchestration tools to automate the software’s use.

The IT Transformation Challenge

As IT executives embark on a transformation project, they are immediately faced with several fundamental challenges. First, many of these open solutions lack a basic data management and protection capability. Meaning that movement to these new platforms means manually cobbling together a data management process.

Second, moving data to these new platforms from legacy IT can be difficult, in terms of both data movement and storage capacity consumption. Each stage of the transformation requires copies of data, impacting networks and consuming capacity. Finally, even after an application has been transformed most organizations leave a copy of the legacy application running to retain access to old information. The result of this is that reduction of software licensing, one of the motivations for IT transformation is not achieved.

Legacy data management and protection solutions do not help with IT transformation. In fact, a case could be made that they are the epitome of the problem. For example, legacy backup solutions typically store backup information in a proprietary format and into a closed database. This private nature means that if an external application could access the data management software’s data, it really could not do anything with it. Data management applications need to become much more open for them to become valuable to an IT transformation process.

What is Open Data Management?

Data management applications protect and organize the data that production applications or users create, typical examples are backup and archive. Data management applications have existed since the beginning of IT and they are critical to bringing any environment online. These applications though are notoriously closed. They are difficult to automate outside of the application and, as mentioned earlier, store the information that they collect in a closed, proprietary format.

In the early days of IT, data management applications needed to be proprietary. At the time, database technology was not able to handle the ingestion of data at the rate required by the backup process. The thought of storing data in its native format seemed like an impossibility given the cost of disk and complexity of tape. Now though times have changed, and it is time for an open data management solution.

Commvault is one of the initial examples of an Open Data Management solution. These solutions will have the ability to be automated and orchestrated externally from a variety of APIs. They will also store their information in either a common or a well-documented database format. Finally, the access to that information will be open so that almost any external application can leverage it. This new openness not only empowers these applications to solve better today’s data management challenges, but they become a critical enabler for organizations looking to begin or continue IT transformation.

How Does Open Data Management Enable IT Transformation?

1. Protect the Transformed

When transforming IT, CIOs need to make sure that the destination is well protected. That means they need software that will backup and replicate data to meet both business continuance and data retention requirements. These new environments are sorely lacking in basic data protection and retention capabilities, often counting solely on primary storage to protect itself or custom scripts. While designing a “do-it-yourself” protection strategy may be acceptable to cloud providers, it is not to the enterprise. Job 1 for the Open Data Management solution is to provide the transformed data center with the same level of protection and retention on open applications to which the legacy data center had been accustomed.

2. Be the Agent of Change

As mentioned above moving data to the new, transformed environment can be difficult. First, administrators create multiple copies of production legacy data so that the application that will drive the transformed data center can be developed. Making the development copy often requires stopping the application. To make sure the development team is working on the latest version of data, copies are repeatedly made, which means frequent shutdowns of the production application. Additionally, this process, like data protection, is typically manual and requires administrator intervention for each update of development. The result is a significant slowdown in the pace of transformation. Finally, each of the copies consumes disk capacity and those copies are seldom retired.

Because it stores data in a native format, an Open Data Management application can present snapshot or backup copies of data directly to the development team without impacting the production application. Leveraging the data management application provides the development team with continuous access to the most recent copy of data. Also since the application is API driven the process of updating development’s working copy can be automated, freeing up administrators to work on other tasks. Finally, these copies are snapshots of the stored data so development can be provided as many copies as they feel they require with little consumption of capacity.

3. Sustain the Transformation

IT transformation is a process; legacy applications are often modernized one at a time. Legacy applications will continue to run side-by-side with modern applications for a while. These modern applications often need to access to data from the legacy application to perform analytics or provide decision support, which requires access to a copy of the data. Once again, the open data management solution can provide that access as often as required without consuming capacity or requiring administration time.

4. Provide a Retirement Package

Once the conversion is complete, data centers struggle with how to manage legacy applications and their data. Most want to keep the legacy application available “just in case”. The problem is that doing so requires continuing to pay licensing fees to the legacy vendor as well as allocating compute and memory resources to keep the legacy solution running. The open data management solution should be able to instantiate the legacy application when needed, essentially taking it out of deep freeze. The ability to store data natively and to provide an on-demand recovery of an application means that the old application and its licensing costs can be fully retired.

5. Protect Legacy

While IT transformation garners much of the IT executive’s attention, it is important to remember that some legacy applications and environments will run the business for the foreseeable future. Legacy applications can benefit from all of the capabilities that the open data management application will provide to a transformed IT. The ability to query protected data, instantly launch virtual machines and automate more of the data protection process can bring immediate value to the data center while the organization works its way through the IT transformation process.

Conclusion

For IT transformation to move from a concept on a whiteboard to reality requires the data protection and data management that Open Data Management solutions can provide. They enable the development, migration and protection of the new environment while improving the brittle, inflexible nature of legacy data protection.

About Commvault

Commvault was formed in 1988 as a development group within Bell Labs and later designated as a strategic business unit of AT&T Network Systems. In 1996, it was incorporated as an independent company. In the 17 years since, Commvault has experienced tremendous growth, pioneered numerous industry-shaping innovations, and established itself as a respected data and information management leader. Now it sets a new bar for data protection and management solutions with an open format that provides native access to data and API access to the application itself.

Sponsored by Commvault

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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