How to Meet the New Data Protection Requirements

Data protection, specifically the backup process, is a foundational element of most data center architectures. The requirements of that foundation though are shifting from an insurance policy that the organization hopes it rarely needs to an active component of the infrastructure that feeds other processes like testing, development, reporting, analytics, and migration. At the same time, users and application owners are demanding more from the data protection process, including faster recoveries and longer retention, all at lower costs.

Modern data protection applications need to continue to provide the foundational elements but also improve on them by enabling faster and more continuous data protection capabilities through intelligent block-level incremental backup. They also need to offer more rapid recovery by instantiating recovered systems on the backup appliance or using a quick recovery to production storage. Rapid recovery though, imposes more significant pressure on the backup hardware to perform. It may now be called on to deliver production-like performance, at least temporarily. Consequently, flash is now a must-have for the data protection infrastructure.

Modern backup applications need to move beyond the insurance policy status. They need to enable IT professionals to quickly deliver copies of relevant data sets so that the organization can perform functions like test/dev, reporting, and analytics. Rapid recovery techniques and automated restore jobs enable the data protection process to continually feed these other processes with the latest copy of data.

Lastly, data protection solutions need to support the long-term retention requirements of the organizations. Processes like reporting and analytics benefit by having accesses to rich historical data and the backup infrastructure is a logical place to store that data. Governments and other regulating bodies are also putting pressure on organizations to retain specific data sets for years. Meeting long-term retention means not only scale-out hardware but also scale-out software. The combination has to manage millions if not billions of objects for potentially decades.

In all of these use cases, many organizations will want to leverage public cloud resources to store and process these retained data sets. The modern data protection solution needs to utilize the cloud both as a long-term storage repository and to leverage cloud computing for processes like test/dev, reporting, and analytics.

Qualifying Startups vs. Market Leaders

While vendors can bolt-on components to legacy backup applications to meet these needs, at some point the solutions may get buried under their own weight. The advantage that startups have is they get to start from a clean slate with the latest development tools and with full realization of available technologies like scale-out, flash, and cloud. They also don’t have to worry about supporting an existing customer base and maintaining backward compatibility.

Vendors that currently lead the market have two options. First, they can wait for one of the startups to prove it has a viable approach by establishing a measurable customer base and then acquire them. This approach is costly, and it does not allow the market-leading vendor to map out a migration strategy for its current customers. The other option is for the market-leading vendor to also start from scratch with new development tools. The advantage for the market-leading vendor is it can pull from a talent pool that it already has and one that has proven its ability to deliver a market-leading solution.

Most market-leading vendors won’t take the approach of starting from scratch for fear of upsetting their current customers. Instead, they continue to bolt-on capabilities for as long as possible. But customers aren’t naive; they know no software code can live forever. Eventually, everything gets replaced. The advantage of the market-leading vendor inventing the replacement is they can layout a gradual and comfortable transition strategy instead of an abrupt change that puts backup history at risk.

Introducing Dell EMC PowerProtect

Dell EMC has a track record of both buying companies and developing technology that eventually may eat into its current offering. In the case of their new Dell EMC PowerProtect Software and X400 appliance data management solutions, they’ve done the latter, leveraging internal talent to start fresh and chart a new course for data protection that instantly makes them competitive with rising data protection upstarts.

The PowerProtect X400 appliance is a turnkey, scale-out data management appliance with integrated PowerProtect Software, which is also available as a stand-alone software offering. PowerProtect X400 has built-in deduplication and optimized data placement that leverages machine learning. Considering it is a new product, it has richer data protection capabilities than most of the startups with which it competes, thanks in large part to Dell EMC’s strong history in data protection (Data Domain, NetWorker and Avamar).

The PowerProtect X400 appliance can scale-up and scale-out and is available in either an all-flash or hybrid configuration. The all-flash configuration is ideal for organizations looking to leverage their data protection system for more than data protection. The hybrid configuration is suitable for customers looking to optimize costs and improve backup capabilities while still providing excellent performance. An all-flash cube can scale from 64 to 112TBs, and a hybrid cube can scale from 64 to 96TB. Up to four cubes are currently supported, which means that an all-flash configuration can scale up to 448TB total capacity and a hybrid configuration can scale up to 384TB. Linear performance increases can be expected as additional cubes are added.

Today, PowerProtect Software and PowerProtect X400 appliances protect VMware, Oracle, MS-SQL and file-system. Given Dell EMC’s extensive data protection developer pool and its new agile development methodology, which enables quarterly software code updates, expect Dell EMC to quickly fill in any gaps that customers might have.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, existing Dell EMC NetWorker and Dell EMC Avamar customers are under no pressure to move to PowerProtect Software. and Dell EMC made it clear that those products are continuing to get updates. However, it is reasonable to expect that the PowerProtect Software team is working with the NetWorker and Avamar teams to develop migration capabilities to the new platform.

StorageSwiss Take

The data protection market is continually evolving. PowerProtect Software and the PowerProtect X400 appliance demonstrate Dell EMCs desire to continue to be a leader, even as the market changes. PowerProtect is a logical next step, not only for Dell EMC to address the new demands of data protection, but to also build a future for its existing customer base.

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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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