Oracle OpenWorld Goers: It’s Time to Recalibrate

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Do you remember pinhole projectors? When a solar eclipse approached, a teacher would warn you, “Don’t look directly at the sun or you’ll burn your retinas.” Instead, you’d build a pinhole projector by poking a small hole in a long box. During the eclipse, you’d see a projection of the eclipse inside.

As with a solar eclipse, sometimes the best way to view massive industry shifts is to look at the projection onto adjacent industries. As we move from VMworld to Oracle OpenWorld, it’s an ideal time to look at how hypervisor and application vendors learned to start worrying and love data protection.

Why Care About Data Protection Now?
From the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, backup architectures didn’t change. In response to a service request, the backup team would install an agent on the application server. That agent would then read the data, package it into a proprietary data format, and sends it to the backup target. Recoveries would run in the exact reverse. For the past 20 years, backup software vendors have tweaked that architecture (e.g., incremental/differential backups, elimination of media servers, source dedupe), but the fundamentals haven’t changed. Backup agents still sift through huge pools of data, pack the information into vendor-proprietary formats, and send the resultant blob of data into the dedicated backup infrastructure.

Meanwhile, for nearly 15 years, the data sources (e.g. ,applications, hypervisors) didn’t care about backup. In 2002, I met a backup administrator struggling with backup and recovery windows for his biggest databases. He asked the sales representative from that database vendor how to improve backup performance. The answer, “Upgrade your hardware. Faster server. Faster network. Faster tape drive. Not my problem.”

Then, everything changed. As with any big shift, it’s hard to pin down one cause (more data) because everybody has different drivers (lots more data), and there are so many factors (dear God, there is so much data). As backup and recovery times increased, customers worried about scaling databases and virtualizing business critical application. When backup threatened their revenue streams, the vendors who had ignored backup, suddenly cared very deeply.

Data Protection – Not Just for Backup Vendors
As the data sources (e.g., applications and hypervisors) began to care about backup they noticed:

  • They could make backup and recovery fast. By sitting in the data path, they can track what needs to be protected and recovered. They see every new piece of data as it is written, modified, or deleted. The backup client has no such option; at backup time, it must search through all the data looking for what’s new. While the backup agent wastes hours searching for needles in haystacks, the data source can enable protection to be completed in minutes.
  • They could simplify backup and recovery for their users. When I have a problem, I like to solve it quickly, myself. If I need to learn a new tool, I get cranky. If I need to call or email somebody, I get ornery. When DBAs call the backup team to recover their data, they get downright cantankerous! The application and hypervisor vendors understood that they could add a simple interface to allow their customers to run 99% of their own recoveries.

Of course, any company can dramatically improve a variety of functions. The bigger question is: What innovation delivers the best return on investment (ROI) for the significant investment in innovation? And this is when you can see that transformation of the backup industry extends well beyond the backup vendors:

  • VMware: With their investment in vStorage APIs for Data Protection (VADP), Changed Block Tracking, vSphere Data Protection, and Site Recovery Manager – VMware has invested heavily in both the data and control paths for data protection.
  • Oracle: With their investment in Oracle Recovery Management (RMAN), Block Change Tracking, and Incremental Merge, Oracle has invested heavily in both the data and control paths for data protection.

I selected these vendors because we’re book-ending their conferences, but Teradata, SAP, Microsoft’s back-office applications, and many more, have invested heavily in data protection. To repeat – data protection has been a top priority for applications with little/no stake in data center infrastructure, limited monetization of protection, and huge opportunity cost vs. enhancing core functionality. Data protection is changing.

What Does This Mean for the Backup Industry?
When you stare at one fairly stagnant item long enough (e.g., grass), even small changes (e.g. grass growing) can seem revolutionary. Sometimes it’s best to look around and re-calibrate your internal measurement of what is transformative. That is certainly true for the backup market.

As the data sources take a more active role in protecting their data, traditional backup architectures won’t survive. Slow agents, proprietary data formats, and dedicated backup infrastructure are relics of the past. Products with those legacy architectures will struggle to adapt to the new world.

However, while the architecture will change, companies still need the value provided by backup teams: managing the protection storage infrastructure, driving policy compliance, cataloging the data, and reporting across the environment. The protection team will continue to deliver this value, just with a more flexible, open architecture.

The backup market is truly transforming, but if you just look at the backup software vendors, you’ll miss the chance to lead. You can best measure the change by looking at the application and hypervisor vendors. Then, you can transform your sense of urgency into selecting a solution. But, I warn you, don’t look directly at the legacy backup software vendors. Watching old stars go supernova and explode can burn your eyes out.

Stephen Manley

Stephen Manley

CTO, Data Protection and Availability Division
Over the past 15 years at both EMC and NetApp, I have traveled the world, helping solve backup and recovery challenges - one customer at a time (clearly, I need to optimize my travel arrangements!). My professional mission is to transform data protection so that it accelerates customers’ businesses. I have a passion for helping engineers pursue technical career path(without becoming managers), telling stories about life on the road and NDMP (yes, that’s NDMP).

Deepak Mohan and Stephen Manley in the Cube, VMworld 2013

EMC Backup Recovery Systems SVP of Engineering, Deepak Mohan, and CTO, Stephen Manley, chat with Dave Vellante, Founder of Wikibon, about virtualization and data protection in theCUBE, VMworld 2013.

Chandra Jacobs
I love creative and challenging projects in the emerging technology product space. I have a background in tech, innovation, and product development, especially as applied to web and mobile apps in the entrepreneurship arena, but have recently moved into marketing. In my role as a product marketer, I have gravitated toward digital marketing as well as analytics/data mining. It fits well with my techie geek bent as well as my cloud angle on The Backup Window. (Be sure to catch my posts on Innovation Station too!) Outside of work at EMC, I enjoy exploring Boston’s culinary and jazz scene (often in combination), and travel as much as I can (35 countries and counting).

It’s Not What You Know But How You Think That Really Matters (to Your Business)

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My absolute favorite interview question goes something like this:

“You’ve decided to move, and you are given three options:

  • Hunt for the perfect house in the perfect location.
  • Find an empty lot and build your dream home.
  • Find the dream plot and work with the tired house that’s already there.

Which do you choose?”

There is no right answer, and in fairness, I’m not really looking for one. Rather, I’m looking to see how the person tackles the question, how he/she breaks it down and ultimately how he/she responds. The speed of response alone is telling and so is the thought process that’s involved in getting there.

This type of questioning helps flush out if the person is a:

  • Tank or Plumber
  • Linear or Abstract Thinker

In my previous post, I jumped on my hobbyhorse and galloped around espousing the differences between Tanks, Plumbers and Chameleons; and now in part two of this “Know Yourself” series, I’m going to explore the differences between Linear versus Abstract Thinkers. Both are critical to know when you’re assembling a team.

If asked, the knee jerk reaction for most is to say they’re Abstract Thinkers. Why? Well, let’s face it, Abstract sounds cool, sassy and forward-looking; Linear seems one-dimensional and a little, um, boring. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

Let’s look at some definitions:

  • Abstract Thinkers: Have the innate ability to “connect the dots” or see how “stars align”; they’re normally fast on their feet when it comes to discussions and the answers. However, the last mile isn’t really that interesting to them so the final execution feels kind of unnatural… sort of like catching a ball with the wrong hand. It’s possible but not something they welcome trying to do.
  • Linear Thinkers: See what’s in front of then and form tasks into a single work stream, knowing which part needs to be knocked off the list first before they move to the next one, and so on; they’re very process-orientated. They are generally not the first to answer a question; they’re more cerebral and like to formulate a response first. They’re not known to shoot from the hip.

Why is this important to me?

Knowing what I am good at is one thing, but equally important is knowing what I’m not so good at. It’s critical that I have a healthy balance of both attributes in my immediate circle of decision-making and influence so my team crosses the finish line strong and on target. (Yep, I’m a Tank and an Abstract Thinker.)

Additionally, it’s important for me to understand how each member of my team thinks as some will rush to an answer while some will need the space to formulate. All opinions are important after all (ever watchful of implicit bias).

If you go to the trouble of creating a diverse management team or, in the more specific case of IT, an effective protection team, you really need to understand how each person ticks or your initial efforts will render a suboptimal result.

You need to understand how your CIO thinks, your DBA thinks, your storage admin thinks, and so on. Else risk internal chaos.

So, you can be a Plumber or a Tank and within these personas be an Abstract or Linear Thinker.  The challenge for organizations and managers, as the book “Good to Great” explains, is making sure you get the right people on the bus and in the right seats.  Companies succeed or fail on this simple principle, and I contend their mojo depends on it.

How’s your company doing?

Guy Churchward

Guy Churchward

President, Data Protection and Availability Division
I'm an enterprise infrastructure hack. Really, if you think of my career as a building, I’ve spent it underneath in the sewer lines and the electric plumbing, making sure things work. Invariably, my businesses end up being called boring. But that’s okay. It means they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to do, which means their customers can do what they need to do. I come to EMC by way of BEA Systems, NetApp and most recently LogLogic, and my mission is to lead EMC Data Protection and Availability Division's efforts to deliver a protection storage architecture that leaves us all in better shape for the next guy, or gig, that comes along. Oh, and make no mistake about it, I want everyone to know who’s number one in backup, and why.

EMC Data Protection Takes Oracle OpenWorld By Storm

Visit our booth!

Next week Oracle OpenWorld rolls into San Francisco (right alongside the fog) and EMC has a lot going on at the event.  You can get all the details in the EMC vPass, but first I’d like to give you a sneak peak of all things EMC Data Protection for OOW ’13.  Here are some highlights as you set up your agenda:

Monday

  • Session – 1:45 pm, Moscone South, Room 301 – Join yours truly and EMC database backup expert Jeff St. Cyr to learn how to “Make Oracle Backups 50% Faster with Deduplication and Oracle RMAN”.  In this session, we’ll discuss:
    • How Data Domain Boost for Oracle RMAN gives DBAs complete control of backup and disaster recovery and,
    • How Data Domain systems support Oracle RMAN multiplexing to optimize performance while maximizing deduplication ratios
    • Best practices for setting up Oracle backup and recovery
  • EMC Booth – 9:45 am to 6:00 pm, Moscone South, Exhibition Hall, Booth #1301 – EMC Data Protection will be well represented in the EMC booth:
    • Conversation Stations – join EMC Oracle experts to discuss your Oracle data protection challenges and learn about best practices for ‘Complete Oracle Data Protection’ from EMC.
    • Meet the Experts – join us to dig deeper into EMC solutions for Oracle data protection:
      • Part 1 – Next Generation Data Protection for Oracle (10:00 am)
      • Part 2 – Faster, more efficient Oracle Backup and DR (12:00 pm)
      • Part 3 – Empowering Oracle DBAs with the EMC Backup (5:00 pm)
  • Cisco Booth – 4:00 pm, Moscone South, Exhibition Hall, Booth #1021 – Join me to learn about ‘Backup and Recovery of VCE Vblock Systems for Oracle Applications’

Tuesday

  • EMC Keynote – 8:00 am, Moscone North, Hall D – Come see Joe Tucci and Jeremy Burton discuss how EMC can help you ‘Lead Your Transformation’.  This keynote includes a live demo of backing up Oracle to Data Domain!
  • EMC Booth – 9:45 am to 6:00 pm, Moscone South, Exhibition Hall, Booth #1301 – same as above, except slightly different ‘meet the experts’ times:
    • Meet the Experts – join us to dig deeper into EMC solutions for Oracle data protection:
      • Part 1 – Next Generation Data Protection for Oracle (10:45 am)
      • Part 2 – Faster, more efficient Oracle Backup and DR (1:00 pm)
      • Part 3 – Empowering Oracle DBAs with the EMC Backup (3:00 pm)

Wednesday

  • EMC Booth – 9:45 am to 4:00 pm, Moscone South, Exhibition Hall, Booth #1301 – same as above, except slightly different ‘meet the experts’ times:
    • Meet the Experts – join us to dig deeper into EMC solutions for Oracle data protection:
      • Part 1 – Next Generation Data Protection for Oracle (11:00 am)
      • Part 2 – Faster, more efficient Oracle Backup and DR (12:30 pm)
      • Part 3 – Empowering Oracle DBAs with the EMC Backup (3:00 pm)
  • Cisco Booth – 10:00 am, Moscone South, Exhibition Hall, Booth #1021 – Join me to learn about ‘Backup and Recovery of VCE Vblock Systems for Oracle Applications’

Throughout the Week

  • If you’re coming to the show and would like to meet with an EMC backup and recovery expert, please reach out to set up a meeting.
  • In addition, you can follow along with us on Twitter before, during, and after the show @EMCBackup with the hashtag #oow13.

Look forward to seeing you all there!

Caitlin Gordon

Caitlin Gordon

Data Domain Product Marketing, Data Protection and Availability Division
I have spent the past nine years focused on all things data protection, with a focus on backup and archive. Lucky for me, Data Domain Systems give me lots of good topics to discuss here. When I’m not blogging, I’m equal parts gadget geek and sports freak – always ready to chat about the latest IT rumor or celebrate/lament the latest Boston sports heartbreak/victory. You can also find me talking backup on Twitter and YouTube.

How Long Should You Keep Your Data?

At last, the definitive answer to the question “How long should we keep our data?”.

It depends.

I understand that this answer will not make me any more popular.  But before you rush to judgment, consider a few issues that make data retention periods such a complex issue.

Ideally, data is retained based upon its content, not its type or location.  So an email message that is a contract should be retained for the period that you retain contracts.  But how long is that?  Many organizations have retention schedules specifying that they will retain contracts for the applicable statute of limitations after the contract has been fully performed.  A common statute of limitations for the breach of a written agreement is six years.  If the agreement takes two years to complete, then the contract itself should be retained for eight years.  But how do you know when the contract has been completed so that you can start the clock on the six year retention?  And whose job is it to figure this out?

And that’s just for contracts.  What about financial statements, marketing materials, sales proposals, etc.?  Even in areas of strict regulation, there can be highly complex issues.  For example, under the new Dodd-Frank Act, certain financial companies that deal in swaps (derivatives) must maintain detailed information about those swaps for five years past their “completion” (and they must be maintained on compliant storage, but that’s even another issue!).  Many of our customers have mentioned that they deal in swaps with an anticipated duration of 40 years. Sometimes those swaps complete earlier, so an initial expectation of a 45 years retention period could quickly be reduced to ten years or less.

That’s why the answer to the retention question is that “it depends”.  In the real world where employees receive 100+ messages each day, we just cannot (yet!) reliably classify every email and file based upon its content.  So we take shortcuts.  We use “big buckets” to set retention periods that will safely capture and retain important content; we divide our organizations into functional areas (legal, HR, sales, operations, finance) and set default retention periods based upon risk and the type of information that is usually created and maintained in those departments.  We develop robust processes and deploy tools so that we can quickly segregate eDiscovery content efficiently, allowing us to keep deleting production data as it “expires”.  It’s not the simplest task, but with a little effort (and a cross-functional team), your organization can figure out how long it should keep its data.

Jim Shook

Jim Shook

Director, eDiscovery and Compliance Field Practice, Data Protection and Availability Division
I am a long-time “lawyer/technlogist”, having learned assembly language on a TRS-80 at age 12 and later a degree in Computer Science. But the law always fascinated me, and after being a litigator and general counsel for over 10 years, the challenges that technology brought to the law and compliance let me combine my favorite pursuits. I spend my days helping EMC’s customers understand their legal and compliance obligations, and then how to apply technology and best practices to meet them.