Twelfth Day of Blogmas: Software-Defined Storage, SLOs and PSA

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).

Window to future

“Software-defined [fill in the blank]” has already made a huge industry impact. Admittedly, there’s a lot of buzz around the term, but it’s no small feat to triumph over “big data” so quickly. And as with many over-hyped terms, there is some real substantive change behind it. So, overlooking the obvious cynical jokes (e.g., thank goodness we don’t need that pesky hardware to store data anymore!) what will software-defined storage mean to data protection and the teams that provide it?

Software-Defined Storage—It’s about SLOs

Software-defined storage (SDS) is about delivering service levels to your applications with your storage assets (compute and media).

Too often, people assume  SDS means that it’s finally time to build a storage system out of software to run on commodity hardware. They’re about 15 years too late; it’s already happened. What makes a Data Domain different from a VMAX? The software. So, if so much of the value in storage has already moved to software, why the noise about software-defined storage? One word… simplicity.

Managing storage environments is excruciating. Each type of array has a unique set of functionality—a storage personality—that must be managed differently and on dedicated islands of hardware.

Customers like the distinct functionality (e.g., Data Domain’s space optimization and data durability, VMAX’s predictable performance and availability, Isilon’s scale) but hate the operational complexity. In some cases, operational simplicity wins and customers select a one-size-fits-all “good enough” storage solution. In other cases, they grind through the complexity. In either case, they have to settle.

Software-defined storage promises to simplify storage management by delivering service level objectives across the various storage systems. Instead of having to be an expert on the intricacies of the VMAX, VNX, and Isilon—imagine a software layer that selects and configures the appropriate storage personality for your workload.

That’s why software-defined storage is so exciting—you can have your cake (all the unique storage functionality) and eat it too (none of the agonizing management complexity). While most customers immediately focus on service levels objectives like response time, throughput, and availability, that’s not where you’ll find the maximum value in software-defined storage. It’s in protection. And it can help you achieve a whole new level of IT productivity.

Software-Defined Storage—It’s about Protection SLOs

Protection has created the greatest amount of complexity in storage environments. While each storage array has a different personality, each also has a well-established set of performance and availability capabilities. In other words, most people know the difference between a VMAX and an Isilon. However, each array offers multiple native protection methods (e.g., SRDF, TimeFinder clones, RecoverPoint) in addition to traditional (e.g. backup client) and next-generation (hypervisor or application-level) backup techniques. The complexity multiplier is staggering. If storage management is excruciating, protection management is soul crushing; it’s impossible to make the right choice.

How can software-defined storage address the protection management challenges?

  • First, customers need to extend their SLO expectations to include Recovery Point Objective (RPO), Recovery Time Objective (RTO), retention, and recovery resiliency (e.g., geography, number of copies, etc.).
  • Second, they need to select a protection storage personality that integrates with the data movement and control mechanisms from their key data sources (e.g., primary storage).
  • Third, they need to connect the protection movement to the application.
  • Finally, they need to demand data management software that can span all the different protection mechanisms. If this sounds familiar… it should. The protection storage architecture recognizes that in the “software-defined” world, storage will take a much more prominent role in protection than it has.

The ultimate goal for software-defined storage is to enable a customer to provision protected storage to meet their SLOs.

The Future Won’t Look Like the Past

While the software-defined storage battles currently are more sound and fury than substance (e.g., a “one-size-fits-all” storage OS is “software defined” in the same way that Michael Bay’s films are “diverse”). Ignore the petty debates and focus on the substance—the storage market has become a breakneck race to see who can deliver SLO-based storage provisioning and protection.

Software-defined storage will have profound implications on the roles of the backup and storage administrators and how companies build (and purchase) protection solutions, and it lays the groundwork for the next massive shift in our industry—from data protection to data management. If you thought my last series was long… wait until you see this one.

 

Themes of #the12daysofblogmas, 2013

Themes of #the12daysofblogmas, 2013

Eleventh Day of Blogmas: Backup Game Day Is Back…The Transformation Continues

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

How do you turn backup and recovery into an offensive strategy that delivers game-changing business results?

More than 4,000 of you tuned in last fall to hear the first part of the story, and an even larger crowd stopped by on March 11 to hear the second chapter.

Backup Game II is all about giving application owners, end user and other stockholders, the visibility and control of the backup process they need to accelerate business.

You’ll learn:

  • Why federated management services are critical to backup transformation
  • How data protection management can help you improve service levels, lower costs, and avoid problems
  • How to manage backup at scale–simply and efficiently
  • How to deliver backup in an IT as a service model
  • How the completely redesigned EMC Data Protection Advisor 6 will help you go from vision to execution.

Watch the recording on-demand. It will be 30-minutes well spent.

Themes of #the12daysofblogmas, 2013

Themes of #the12daysofblogmas, 2013

Tenth Day of Blogmas: Help! I’m Stuck in the Muck That’s Become My Job, Part I

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.

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I have no idea how sage writers churn out endless gems in books that help us better navigate our careers but they do. I’m not a voracious reader but I have stumbled on a few books that seem to parallel my thought process. My short list includes:

  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t (Collins)
  • The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t (Sutton)
  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Gladwell)
  • Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions (Kotter)

Now, I wouldn’t say I’ve had a playbook career, but my personal way of muddling through has worked out pretty well over the years and along the way, I have learned a few things that have helped me tremendously—my own gems, I guess you could say. Some I’ve gleaned from reading, but most are from my personal work experience, family and peers, as noted.

Recently, I’ve found myself on a few speaker tracks talking about some of these gems, so I figured it might be time to write them down and share them. Whether you’re navigating a career in business, medicine or IT, these gems apply. The list is different if you’re a manager or a non-manager, but reading both will benefit you short- and long-term—perhaps even broaden your perspective a bit.

Gems for non-managers:

  1. The only person who’s going to manage your career is you. If a manager is taking an interest in you and your career, take advantage of it.
  2. A job is a job and a career is a career. I spent nearly 14 years at the same company, albeit in different roles. When I left that company, I realized what I had was a job, not a career. Yep, I’d stayed 10 years too long!
  3. Keep an eye on your résumé. Every inch of your résumé counts. If you haven’t enhanced it recently, then it’s time for change. After all, a job is a job and a career is a career (see #2).
  4. Have a 3-5 year plan but be realistic that it will likely change. It’s good to dream and it’s fun to look back with friends and say “Did you ever imagine we would be here three years ago?”
  5. Being invaluable at a task will keep you employed but will likely stunt your career. What’s never said is managers want people who are good and stable in their roles. So, if you’re good, they’ll likely prefer you to carry on doing what you do best without any disruptions. If this is the case, you and they will inadvertently stunt your career.
  6. Being a selfless utility player will make your career rich and rewarding (Graham). Continuing the thread from #5, I was once challenged by a boss to learn a unique skill—something that would make me “invaluable.” He told me to document it, try it again, teach someone it and make myself redundant. THAT’s how you make yourself invaluable to a business. Incidentally, I was going about this in the polar opposite way, so this piece of advice was a massive help to me—and my career.
  7. If you figure something out, document it, try it again, teach someone, make yourself redundant (see #6) and raise your hand  for the next tough assignment. Remember every inch of your résumé counts.  Keep learning (see #11 below).
  8. Learn to like the crappy jobs (Dad). Try and find a successful executive who didn’t fight on the way up by taking the harder road!
  9. Figure out who you are and how you think. Are you a Tank or Plumber? Are you a Linear or Abstract Thinker?
  10. Figure out what you’re good at and, more importantly, what you aren’t good at. Most careers stall or slide when you don’t know these two things or are insecure in your ability and get ahead of your skis. If you do this, guess which part of your so-called skills will be critical in your next job? Be forewarned!
  11. Keep learning. Rinse and repeat is good for your hair but not your career. There is nothing worse than doing the same thing year after year.
  12. Try not to live where you work (Mick). A small commute can help you detox. Don’t take baggage home; it will stunt your career and hurt your home life.
  13. If you find yourself underwater with to-do’s, make a list (Edmundo). On Friday, write down every task you know you have to do (make a separate list for business and personal). From this list, identify your top 10 tasks for the upcoming week.  For an added cool factor, send a copy of your list to your boss. You’ll have a better weekend; you’ll figure out what really is important (see also Heidi’s post “Have You Taken the ‘Repeat Test’?”) and you’ll stay on course.
  14. Take all the advice you can but act on only what you see is correct (Uncle Richard). Translation: Two ears and one mouth.
  15. If you start a new project or idea, don’t let it creep too far (Andre). Most projects fail from never-ending creep. Lock your plan down and execute, and then adjust.
  16. Raise your hand. If your job doesn’t challenge you, and even scare you, at times, you’re not stretching far enough. Make sure people know you have extra capacity.

IT friends, are you stuck in the muck that’s become your jobs? What resonates from this list? Tweet me at @guychurchward or comment here.

IT and business leaders, my gems for you in my next post!

Themes of #the12daysofblogmas, 2013

Themes of #the12daysofblogmas, 2013

Ninth Day of Blogmas: Because the CIO Said So

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

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Times they are a changing, and so are CIOs.

But for the past several years, the focus of most IT organizations across the globe has really been on one thing and one thing only: reducing IT costs. Blame it on the economy, the IT adoption curve or just (bad) habit, but we, as an industry and as consumers of IT, have prioritized short-term cost-savings often at the expense of longer-term business value, and we’ve prioritized instant gratification over strategy and innovation.

And this isn’t good.

However, a recent IDG survey highlights a very different trend taking shape globally ―one that we’ve been talking about here on The Backup Window since last year’s EMC World, or before.

Of the more than 1,500 CIOs and other IT leaders in the U.S. that IDG surveyed for the study, 49% ranked improving IT productivity as their number-one  goal for 2013, followed by better, faster, decision-making; improving service levels; protecting corporate data and increasing agility.

Do I hear cloud?

As for lowering costs – the historical front-runner – it ranked eighth in the survey. Yes, it’s still on the list, and so it should be, but it’s no longer the driving factor, or force, behind many of the decisons CIOs are making and the things IT organizations are doing.

This is huge. Why?

Well, as we’ve discussed on The Backup Window as well as on Backup Game Day I and II, companies with IT organizations that see themselves as change agents (or “brokers of value,” as IDG puts it) have a definite business advantage over companies with IT organizations that see themselves only as task-doers. They think and manage IT resources from a business viewpoint; they think smarter, not just faster.

For these CIOs and organizations, “time to” is a measure of IT efficiency (or productivity). It’s the time it takes to spin up a new business application, analyze a complex data set or expand business operations or customer base, and this has real business value. Stephen Manley explains why in this short video – part II of his three-part Accelerating Transformation series.

Check it out and then let us know what you think. How’s your CIO doing?

Themes of #the12daysofblogmas, 2013

Themes of #the12daysofblogmas, 2013

Eighth Day of Blogmas: Boost Oracle with EMC Data Protection

Caitlin Gordon

Caitlin Gordon

Data Domain Product Marketing, Data Protection and Availability Division
I have spent the past eight 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.

As a follow up to my blog last week,  EMC Data Protection has taken Oracle OpenWorld by storm.  If you run Oracle databases to support your most mission-critical apps, how difficult is it to backup up your databases in limited backup windows? Check this out to help you understand how EMC data protection solutions provide complete Oracle backup and DR enabling you to ensure Oracle backup doesn’t become a bottleneck to your IT transformation.

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