Integrating Copy Data Management with DRaaS – Axcient Briefing Note

Why don’t Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) vendors offer Copy Data Management (CDM) services? In order to do that, the company in question must have a copy of your data. The service must also be able to go back in time to restore previous versions of your systems. This means the company has some of the ingredients necessary to be a CDM solution. So why is Axcient the first DRaaS company to offer CDM as a service? That was the question I found myself asking at the end of Axcient’s latest briefing with Storage Switzerland. More on that later.

What is CDM? It’s based on the idea that copies take up too much space, cost too much to create and maintain, and don’t get used nearly enough. CDM therefore seeks to reduce the amount of space that copies occupy, make it easier to create copies, and make it easier to use them once they are created. CDM systems fall into one of two main camps: Off-host and on-host CDM.

An on-host CDM is essentially a management system for the built-in snapshot and replication capabilities of your existing storage systems. By making replicated snapshots easier to manage and use, the hope is that you might stop creating other copies and therefore save space. For example, you might stop traditional backups and creating ad hoc copies for test and dev purposes. The main advantage of the on-host CDM approach is it leverages the existing hardware tools you already know. Its biggest disadvantage is found in shops with multiple storage vendors, or storage arrays with limited snapshot capabilities.

The off-host approach replicates all writes from the primary storage system to a secondary system that is responsible for creating snapshots and making them available for various purposes. The idea behind an off-host CDM is they would provide a single copy of all data and even deduplicate the data to reduce its footprint even further. Companies offering off-host CDM products believe they can offer more functionality than what one can do with the built-in snapshot capabilities of many storage arrays. This comes with the requirement to install another storage system in your data center, which is its biggest disadvantage.

Axcient takes an off-host approach with a slight twist; instead of requiring you install a CDM system in your data center, Axcient offers it as a service. Simply deploy the Axcient Virtual Manager directly in your virtualized environment and your data is automatically sent to Axcient’s Cloud, which can provide both CDM and DRaaS services with a single copy.

So why isn’t everyone doing this? The answer comes in how well the various DRaaS services simplify recovery of individual files and systems. Axcient is saying that many of its competitors require manual intervention on the part of the vendor in order to initiate a restore. While this is fine for the occasional DR exercise, it is not acceptable if one is going to make continual use of the copies present in the cloud. It would require too much manpower on the part of the DRaaS vendor. Axcient’s efficiency and automation features, which include data deduplication and Runbooks, have made it feasible to offer CDM as a service without suffering a massive overhead requirement on their part.

The latest offering offers full DRaaS and CDM services using a single platform and one copy of your data stored in their cloud.

StorageSwiss Take

It makes perfect sense to offer both DR and CDM via a single copy of data in the cloud. In fact, it makes so much sense that we would expect to see other DRaaS vendors follow suit as soon as it is possible. However, Axcient seems to be the first vendor offering a combined CDM and DR service.

W. Curtis Preston (aka Mr. Backup) is an expert in backup & recovery systems; a space he has been working in since 1993. He has written three books on the subject, Backup & Recovery, Using SANs and NAS, and Unix Backup & Recovery. Mr. Preston is a writer and has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences around the world. Preston’s mission is to arm today’s IT managers with truly unbiased information about today’s storage industry and its products.

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