When it came to selecting the storage target for an organization’s backups the choice was simple; tape. At the time, that is all there was. Now, though, there are an almost overwhelming number of options including fully integrated (including software) backup appliances, secondary storage systems, cloud storage, and object storage – in addition to tape. Often each of these solutions have a unique advantage that captures the eye of IT professionals frustrated at the state of the backup infrastructure. The reality is, though, the organization needs to settle on one storage solution with the responsibility of storing and retaining backup data.
Before You Buy Backup Storage
There are steps to take before selecting a backup storage solution. The first is to understand what exactly you want from your backup storage and the second is what capabilities can your backup software deliver.
For the first step, backup hardware needs to ingest data as fast as the environment can send it but no faster, especially if that speed comes at the expense of other capabilities. Backup storage also needs to return information as quickly as possible if there is a server, storage or site failure. Remember in some cases, thanks to in-place recovery, backup storage hardware might become your primary storage, at least temporarily.
The second step is to understand the capabilities of the backup software. For example, does it support in-place recoveries? If so, the backup storage system should provide more than just great ingest performance. You may also want to turn off deduplication so that it does not interfere with recovery performance.
In fact, it may make sense to not have deduplication as a feature at all since so many backup applications support changed block backup and their own deduplication. The gains organizations realize on deduplication technology has subsided substantially over the last few years.
The Backup Storage Options
Today when IT considers backup storage the first place they look is disk based storage systems with deduplication and backup software integration features built in. As deduplication moves into software, backup storage hardware has put more emphasis on integration with backup software. It is not uncommon for backup solutions to control backup hardware replication for example.
A growing trend is for backup software vendors to become hardware vendors and pre-integrate software on hardware with storage capacity built in. Again, since the software provide deduplication, they are eliminating the traditional disk based backup solution in favor of providing a more turnkey experience to their customers. The challenge with this approach is that flexibility is the first casualty of “turnkey”. The customer is locked into the software vendor’s choice of hardware.
Another option is cloud storage. Backup software solutions are quite adroit at either replicating backups to the cloud or even backing up directly to the cloud. For some organizations leveraging the cloud for backups makes sense, the problem is the long term cost of renting storage. As the capacity and the age of the data increases the total cost can be a concern.
A final option is object storage, an on-premises solution which provides the pay-as-you-grow economics of cloud storage but does so on a storage system the organization owns. While not a viable option for companies with modest capacity requirements, as organizations reach 50TBs or more of backup storage, the value in owning the storage becomes apparent. Most enterprise backup solutions have the ability to send backups directly to object storage.
Object Storage as a Multi-Purpose, Storage Consolidation Platform
Object storage has the unique advantage of being multi-purpose. In other words, it is not a dedicated backup target. Because object storage resides in your data center and can be scaled essentially limitlessly (without incurring a performance penalty) the investment can be spread across a wide variety of use cases. In the data protection space, for example, it can store server backups, desktop backups, DR copies, and archives.
Many users also deploy object storage as primary storage for modern applications and analytics projects, and as a file store for user data and enterprise file sync and share solutions. It can also be used to recover data center storage capacity with data-tiering applications that non-disruptively offload enterprise NAS systems.
What an organization stores its backups on is more critical than ever. These systems need to ingest data quickly and be able to retain that information for a long time by scaling capacity while maintaining data integrity. Now, backup systems can take on new roles like temporarily acting as primary storage. Each organization will have different needs but for large enterprises looking to keep data private and have maximum flexibility object storage deserves strong consideration.
Sponsored by Cloudian
Cloudian is a Silicon Valley-based company specializing in 100% native S3 API object storage systems. With technology roots in the large-scale enterprise messaging space, Cloudian introduced HyperStore in 2011.