If the updates coming out of the various backup software companies are any indication, copy data management (CDM) and instant recovery are mainstream features. In addition, some backup software products are finally starting to recognize the importance of creating and enforcing service-level agreements (SLAs). This was certainly evident during our briefing with Unitrends about Unitrends Backup v10.
Copy Data Refresher
CDM recognizes the fact there are myriad copies of data in your data center, and attempts to minimize the number of actual copies while actually increasing the service levels of the processes using said copies. The copy that everyone (hopefully) knows about, of course, is the copy in the backup system. That copy is rarely used – if at all. There are a number of other copies as well, including copies created for testing and development. A recent addition to the computing world is the idea of data analytics against unstructured data in order to monetize historical data. Unfortunately, this process also needs a copy of a lot of data. Depending on the number of different projects that are going on at one time, there may be dozens of copies of production data to serve all these various purposes.
CDM looks at all of these processes (e.g. operational restore, DR, test, development, and data analytics) and asks the question whether or not all of them can be served by a single copy of the data accessible in a variety of ways.
Integrating CDM with Backup
It has always been possible to use the backup system as the source of data for other processes, such as test and development. But since the backup data was stored in a proprietary format, and getting the data out of that format was somewhat problematic and time-consuming, most people did not go through the trouble.
However, if we store the backups in such a way that allows instant access to a copy of data from a particular point in time, and allows us read write access to that copy, the landscape changes. As long as every process gets something that behaves like their own copy, and the processes do not step on each other from a data integrity or performance standpoint, it is possible to use a single copy to accomplish multiple purposes.
A key ingredient of a CDM system is that backup data should be immediately accessible without a restore. Referred to as instant recovery, the idea is a file system or VM from a particular point in time can be immediately mounted from the backup image. This can be used to satisfy test, development, and analytical processes, as well as to facilitate a disaster recovery. Unitrends Backup v9 already had a live recovery feature. Unitrends Backup v10 introduces CD support enabled by that feature. Since Unitrends can present a backup image at any point in time as a file system or VM, the product can satisfy all of the typical needs of a CDM system using backup data.
Integrating SLA Management Into Backup
Many backup specialists always pushed the importance of SLAs. We’ve always said it is important to agree on the recovery time objective (RTO), recovery point objective (RPO), and the backup window. While many people do use these SLAs to help design a backup system, enforcing SLAs can be clunky.
Unitrends Backup v10 allows customers to set their RPO and retention policies, as well as how many copies of data there should be and where they should be located. The product then automates the underlying processes to ensure that these SLAs are met. This includes detailed analytics and reporting that tell users if they are meeting both RPO and RTO policies. This is a solid step in the right direction. We would like also for Unitrends to support setting up the RTO compliance automation within the RPO policy wizard. Unitrends representatives agreed that that is a good idea and that they are investigating approaches that identify application dependencies automatically to achieve this.
The more we can use the backup system to satisfy multiple needs of the business, the more the backup system can be thought of as an integral part of IT. The more that happens, the more money it’s going to be given for budget. Feeding a CDM system with backup data is a great way to do that. In addition, it also allows for continual and automated testing of data recovery.