The Requirements of a Modern Data Protection Architecture

Previously, Storage Switzerland wrote about the challenges of trying to meet modern data protection requirements with legacy technologies, including the inability to scale-out and limited cloud integration. We also discussed the pros and cons of new backup appliances and converged data protection solutions, when it comes to meeting new requirements. In this installment, we will explore what modern data protection architecture should really look like.

Most data protection solutions that converge hardware and software use a scale-out architecture. The converged solution includes a new software application that requires IT to learn a new way of protecting data. These systems also use a storage format, which is different from the organization’s previous solution. Generally, the converged solution requires the organization to either migrate backup data to the new solution’s format, or to retain a copy of the old solution for years so that historical data is accessible to meet the organization’s retention requirements.

Instead of forcing an overnight conversion, a converged data protection solution should also integrate with existing third-party tools and applications to allow it to be the backup target for these products. Not only does this help to ease and cut the cost of transitioning off of the previous data protection solution, but it also helps to make sure that all of the business’s data is protected. For example, the enterprise might use a specialized tool to manage their databases. This data still needs to be protected, and third-party integration is needed to simplify the process of backing up and recovering this data.

Storage professionals should also closely evaluate the quality of the data protection hardware and software capabilities. For example, it is important to be able to verify that recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs) can be met. Also, the flexibility to recover to another on-premises data center or in the cloud, can help ensure the ability to meet varying, application-specific privacy, RTO and performance during recovery requirements. In addition, storage professionals should look for the ability to verify backup jobs against corruption, for example via checksum capabilities.

The backup target should strategically integrate flash storage for two use cases. The first is to be able to provide very fast RTOs – some applications require instant (or nearly instant) recovery. When a feature like instant recovery is used, the backup application uses backup storage for instantiating the application’s data. If that data is on high capacity hard drives that are also compressed and deduplicated, then the performance of the instantly recovered workload is almost unusable. Using flash overcomes that challenge and provides performance more similar to primary storage. The second ideal use case for integrating flash into the backup infrastructure is for backing up transactional data that is changing very frequently. This applies for example to backup metadata, which enables faster updates during backup and faster data search during recoveries.

Lastly, modern data protection solutions should be multi-purpose. The storage professional should have the flexibility to use the underlying data protection hardware as backup target for other software, and it should be cost-effective enough to be used as a long-term retention and archive data repository. This is especially important with growing compliance requirements.

At the same time, the data protection solution should be able to serve file services workloads via support for the Network File System (NFS) protocol and capabilities such as file versioning. In addition to being cost-effective, the data protection solution should have performance levels that are sufficient to meet primary storage requirements for virtualized environments. When failing over to the disaster recovery infrastructure, the business is relying on the disaster recovery infrastructure to run mission-critical operations, so sufficient levels of performance must be available. The performance acceleration of flash storage can provide an additional advantage for both of these workloads.

By meeting the above requirements, modern data protection architecture enables organizations to simplify their data protection architecture by supporting legacy applications while advancing the state of the art with a modern application included in the converged architecture. It provides disaster recovery on-premises, to other organization owned locations and in the cloud. Requiring the data protection architecture for use with other secondary storage workloads, like archiving and even primary storage workloads like file services and virtualized infrastructure storage, enables the organization to further reduce costs by eliminating other hardware purchases while at the same time simplifying management.

Our next and final installment in this series details StorageCraft’s OneXafe as an example of a modernized solution that can help storage professionals to better protect their mixed, hybrid environments.

Sponsored by StorageCraft

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Senior Analyst, Krista Macomber produces analyst commentary and contributes to a range of client deliverables including white papers, webinars and videos for Storage Switzerland. She has a decade of experience covering all things storage, data center and cloud infrastructure, including: technology and vendor portfolio developments; customer buying behavior trends; and vendor ecosystems, go-to-market positioning, and business models. Her previous experience includes leading the IT infrastructure practice of analyst firm Technology Business Research, and leading market intelligence initiatives for media company TechTarget.

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