How to Develop a Holistic Cloud Data Management Strategy – Actifio Briefing Note

Many organizations have identified the public cloud as an important tool in their data protection and data management strategies. Vendors are quick to jump on this interest. The problem is most of the solutions vendors provide are fairly myopic and only use a part of the cloud capabilities in their solutions. IT needs to look for a solution that enables a more holistic use of the public cloud.

A Public Cloud Capability Inventory

Most organizations, as they start their cloud journey, look at the cloud as a giant digital dumping ground. They store backups and maybe even archive data to one type of cloud storage at one provider. This dumping ground use case ignores the fact that there are multiple cloud providers, each with different types of storage tiers and, of course, there is a vast amount of processing resources available to act on the data they move to the cloud. Also, different cloud providers are developing expertise in certain areas, some are better at video and audio processing, others at machine learning and analytics, other still are known for airtight security.

To tap into this inventory of capabilities IT needs to equip the organization with tools that allow for not only the movement of data to and between clouds, but also the ability to move data in its native form and in some cases, even transform that data so it is ready to run in the destination cloud.

Data Protection is Just a Starting Point

There is a reason data protection is the number one task organizations use to begin their cloud journey. Cloud backup, and especially disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), simplify most difficult to manage processes in the data center. And data protection should continue to be the first step, but IT needs to be careful the solution isn’t so myopic that as the organization looks for other cloud use cases it can’t leverage the data protection process to enable them.

DRaaS is certainly a step in the right direction. It expands the cloud backup use case by enabling a customer’s virtual machines (VM) to run in a provider’s cloud in the event of a disaster. In this case, the cloud is used for more than just storage. These solutions leverage cloud compute to instantiate those VMs.

To be more than just data protection, the solution has to provide several key capabilities. First, it has to, obviously, support multiple cloud providers like Amazon, Google, Azure and others. It also has to support private cloud storage (object storage).

Second, the solution needs to move data in its native format, not a proprietary backup format. Storing data in a backup format means time is required to move the data out of the format into another format.

Third, the solution needs to be cloud-tier aware. Each of the major cloud providers has at least three tiers of storage; a high performance but expensive tier, a more affordable but less performing middle tier, and a cold tier that is cost effective but slow to retrieve data from. IT needs the flexibility to use more than one tier depending on the use case. The solution should enable them to quickly move data between tiers based that need.

Finally, the solution needs to be multi-cloud aware. The ability to move data between clouds is becoming increasingly important. It enables the organization to leverage specific capabilities of a particular cloud provider or to provide redundancy against cloud failure.

Introducing Actifio 8.0

Actifio is a software-based solution that provides enterprise data-as-a-service. It enables the instant use of data across data centers and multiple clouds. It also enables near real-time protection of data, tracking all those changes, to provide near-instant rollback from cyber-attacks or disasters. Finally, it eliminates the uncontrolled proliferation of copy data by creating what it calls a “Virtual Data Pipeline.”

It works by installing a virtual or physical appliance on-premises and after the initial copy of data is created, new writes are split as data is sent to primary storage. Essentially, the primary copy is updated incrementally forever. The Actifio Virtual Data Pipeline then manages this copy of data and provides read/write virtual copies of data to various processes like analytics, test-dev and DR.

In its 8.0 release, Actifio raises the bar. First, it provides native, multi-cloud support. Actifio can copy data to and from on-premises storage to a wide variety of public cloud providers including Amazon AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix and Oracle Cloud.

More importantly, it places that data in those respective clouds in a native format so the applications running in those clouds can instantly access it. As it does with on-premises data, an Actifio instance in the cloud can manage a single cloud copy and then present virtual images to cloud based applications.

The 8.0 release also improves Actifio’s cloud mobility capabilities. It can now convert from physical server to a VMware VM’s VMDK to an Amazon AMI. At that point, the VM can run in the Amazon cloud. The solution is not limited to Amazon, it can provide this capability for all of its supported clouds.

In the Amazon use case, Actifio can also convert back to VMDK. For example, a VMware VM could be pushed to Amazon AWS, run for a period of time, a seasonal peak, then be converted back to a VMDK and moved back on-premises.

With data now potentially spread across several clouds and organization owned data centers, knowing what data is where is a big challenge. Fortunately, the 8.0 release provides a global catalog, creating a common metadata index of all data regardless of data. Now multi-cloud organizations can find their data no matter where.

Finally, the 8.0 release unveils Actifio’s Cloud-based customer success. This is an always-on customer engagement platform for monitoring, supporting and resolving the customer’s Actifio architecture. The solution correlates analytics, not actual data, to provide a community approach to identifying and solving problems.

StorageSwiss Take

Organizations are understanding the value of the data they create and collect. As a result, they are storing more data. And that data needs to be operated on by more than the user, application or location that created it. Instead, that data needs to be made available to multiple locations, clouds and other compute services.

Actifio created one market, copy data management, then evolved into a data as a service company based on how enterprises were utilizing the technology. It enables organizations to leverage the data they create and then move that data to the platform or cloud that makes the most sense to operate on that data. 8.0 is a significant step toward unshackling data, while at the same time curtailing its growth so that organizations can extract more value than ever from the data that they store.

Eight 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 and a heavily sought after public speaker. With 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 the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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