Using the Cloud Data Fabric for Data Protection

Most organizations use data protection as their first step into the cloud. Unfortunately, that first step, like many first steps, often results in a stumble. If organizations don’t create a cloud data fabric first, they often use an extension to their backup application which can’t fully leverage the cloud and starts a series of siloed approaches to cloud adoption.

The Problems with Built-in Functionality

Many on-premises data protection solutions simply add cloud extensions to their solutions. In most cases, on-premises backup solutions only use cloud storage to store an extra copy of backup data. A few on-premises data protection solutions use cloud storage to archive older backups but very few take any advantage of cloud compute.

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No matter the level of cloud support, all on-premises data protection solutions only provide cloud connectivity to their application. Most organizations use three or four backup applications. This product specificity means the organization ends up with three or four different cloud data protection strategies.

Finally, most on-premises data protection solutions store data in a proprietary format, even in the cloud. Proprietary storage means that cloud compute resources can’t access the backup data set.

The Advantages of a Cloud Data Fabric for Data Protection

A cloud data fabric presents cloud storage as an SMB or NFS share. Any on-premises data protection solution that writes data to SMB or NFS shares can send data to the cloud. Unlike the siloed, vendor specific solutions, the cloud data fabric enables all applications to send data to the same storage area on the same cloud, greatly simplifying data protection management.

The cloud data fabric also automatically moves older data to less expensive forms of cloud storage, so as backups age the cost to store those backups decreases. At this point, no on-premises data protection solutions support multiple cloud storage tiers.

The cloud data fabric also makes data available to cloud compute. Cloud compute enables the organization to leverage data for disaster recovery, test/dev or data analytics.

The Cloud-Native Advantage of the Cloud Data Fabric

Most on-premises data protection solutions provide no support for cloud native applications. Those that do usually do so through a separate application. A cloud data fabric enables on-premises backup applications to better leverage the cloud and it provides protection of cloud native applications.

Data protection requirements are different in the cloud. Most cloud providers deliver excellent decent storage availability. Losing access to an application because of a natural disaster or storage system failure is unlikely. However, cloud-native applications still need point-in-time protection, so they can recover from an application corruption. A cloud data fabric provides point-in-time protection by using integrated snapshots and cloning.

IT can trigger snapshots of their cloud-native applications either manually or on a schedule. They can use snapshots to recover an entire volume or a single file. Recoveries are easy to execute and happen almost instantly.

A snapshot however, is totally dependent on the primary storage system. If the primary storage system fails, the snapshot is lost. The cloud data fabric protects against snapshot corruption with clones. The fabric creates clones of volumes from the snapshots; those clones are independent of the original volume. IT can also instruct the cloud data fabric to replicate clones to another cloud region or even another cloud, for more complete protection. The cloud data fabric can also archive clones to a cold tier of cloud storage for long-term data retention at reduced costs.

Snapshots and clones also bring value to on-premises backups. Snapshots and clones of data sent to the cloud via a backup application, add another layer of protection.

Conclusion

While using the cloud for data protection is a popular first step for many organization’s cloud journey, it is also one that can set the organization on the wrong path. Extending an existing data protection solution with its cloud option leads to cloud-based data protection silos, limits cloud use of protected data and ignores cloud native applications and migration of apps into the cloud.

A cloud data fabric allows all on-premises data protection applications unified cloud access while enabling cloud access to protected data. The cloud data fabric also enables critical point-in-time protection of cloud native applications through the use of snapshots and clones.

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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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