Why Current Data Protection Architectures Miss the Mark

In response to the increased need for rapid recovery, longer data retention and the desire to support the cloud for vaulting and disaster recovery, alternative solutions are appearing on the market to try and correct the shortcomings of legacy architectures. The alternative solutions typically come in two flavors; integrated backup appliances or converged data protection solutions. Neither does fully address all the challenges that legacy architectures face and in some cases, they create more problems than they solve.

The Problem with Dedicated Backup Appliances

A dedicated backup appliance is different than data protection storage solutions. A dedicated backup appliance pre-integrates a legacy storage solution into a (typically legacy) storage architecture and claims it now provides modernized data protection. While there is some value in the pre-integration, operationally the experience is the same. If adding new clients is difficult in the software when it is stand alone, there is no reason to believe that it will be any easier in the dedicated backup appliance. Additionally, a feature missing from the software only version will also be missing from the dedicated backup appliance.

A converged data protection solution often runs the backup software on the data protection storage infrastructure which is typically scale-out. In some cases the software takes advantage of the scale-out features and either runs across multiple nodes or assigns specific processes to specific nodes. These converged solutions often include rapid recovery capabilities, including recovery-in-place (instant recovery) but only using their software. A converged data protection solution is a step in the right direction, but it creates problems of its own.

The first challenge with converged data protection solutions is that they force an immediate and permanent change to the backup software in use. This change is impractical, since organizations already mad big investments in the skills required to run the backup software, and it potentially also has years’ worth of data stored in that backup software’s format. Even if the software that comes with the solution is far superior to the existing solution, the organization will need to maintain a copy of the old solution for years in order to access its data.

Converged solutions represent a significant investment in hardware, software and re-training. They also are limited in the use cases they support, typically just backup, and occasionally archive. Yet given the theoretical capabilities of the underlying hardware, these environments should be able to support many more use cases including complete secondary storage and some primary storage. Assuming the software is well written, converged solutions should support user file shares and, in some cases, even production data sets.

What IT Needs

The concept of not only pre-integrating hardware and software onto a scale out storage platform, but also leveraging that platform’s computing power to run the data protection software, makes converged data protection a step in the right direction. To advance on the journey to a modern data protection solution though, IT needs a system that can be a storage target for other data protection software. Multi-vendor support means that the organization can move to the new solution at their pace and not worry about missing platform support. The system also needs to provide high performance, in-place recoveries not only for their own software but for the existing software as well, assuming that software has that feature. Finally, the solution needs to be a platform for more than just data protection; expanding to not only archive use cases but also primary storage.

We’ll dive deeper into the requirements for a modern data protection solution in our next blog.

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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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