Lego Architecture sets are among the greatest inventions of the last decade. My seven-year-old son Connor loves to show off his Lego creations, but my wife doesn’t really appreciate the aesthetic value of a Lego Death Star. Thankfully, Lego solved the problem by creating beautiful reproductions of buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe….
As Connor and I constructed the 2000+ piece Robie House, he asked, “If nobody famous lived here, why is this place famous?” I answered, “The architecture. The right architecture is priceless.”
Building Intentional – Not Accidental – Architectures
Evolving data protection technology and expanding requirements have completely transformed the backup industry. Unfortunately, with such rapid change, many organizations have fallen into the chaos of an accidental architecture. The backup team isn’t solving critical protection performance challenges from the application, virtualization and storage teams, so those teams deploy silos of point products as they deem appropriate. The accidental architecture results.It’s accidental because nobody would intentionally plan for half-dozen unconnected protection tools, no central oversight and no cost controls (Okay, based on their acquisition history, maybe Dell would.).
Customers need to define a protection storage architecture to combat the accidental architecture. This architecture should be composed of loosely coupled modules to minimize vendor lock-in while providing the value of integrated data protection. That way, the backup team can solve immediate challenges while delivering a platform that can evolve with business and technical requirements.
What are the key challenges that the protection architecture needs to address?
- Over the next three years, the protection team will be expected to deliver multiple services: disaster recovery, backup and archive.
- The protection team must tie together a disparate set of technology components and owners. Virtually every part of IT plays a role in data protection. The application team is the focus because they’re delivering the technology value to the business. IT infrastructure –virtualization, storage, servers and network – must keep the business applications running. With such a diverse set of people and technology required to deliver a protection solution, it’s no surprise that a data protection administrator survives about as long as a main character in Game of Thrones.
What Is a Protection Storage Architecture?
The protection team must bring together the right people, processes and architecture to transform the technical and organizational complexity into a successful solution. In the past, we’ve talked about the evolution of the protection team and its approach. Now, it’s time to talk to talk technology.Our most successful customers have adopted a protection storage architecture, which consists of three core, loosely coupled modules:
- Protection Storage: This is the anchor of the architecture. First, protection storage has a unique design center in the storage world: cost-optimized storage with high data durability that can deliver disaster recovery, backup and archive. Second, to avoid creating silos of protection storage, the platform must support multiple protocols (e.g., VTL, NAS, OST and deduplication-aware protocols like Data Domain Boost) and integrate with multiple data sources (applications, hypervisors, storage and backup applications). The right protection storage sets the team down a path of a flexible, reliable, scalable infrastructure for protection. The wrong choice? You’ve seen what happens in the Friday the 13th movies when you take a wrong turn…
- Data Source Integration: Internal customers want two things from their protection team. First, performance – backup and recovery needs to be fast. Second, they want visibility into the protection of their data. The protection storage architecture leverages both the optimized data flows and user interfaces of the data sources: hypervisor, application and storage. The data sources deliver optimized protection performance because they can track the data as it changes (e.g., VMware Changed Block Tracking, array snapshots)versus trying to figure out what changed after the fact (e.g., traditional backup agent searching through all the data for the changes). The user interface (e.g., vSphere, Oracle RMAN, Unisphere) displays protection status in that team’s preferred, native interface. Data source integration eliminates the two causes of the accidental architecture – performance and visibility. Of course, this integration is available only if you have chosen protection storage that can support these flows.
- Data Management Services: The protection team delivers value with data management services. Thus far, the architecture eliminates the causes of the accidental architecture, but the protection team needs to add value to convince their customers to adopt their services. What services can they offer? Senior management wants to ensure the protection meets SLAs and compliance regulations… as cost effectively as possible. They need analytics and reports for compliance, policy and infrastructure utilization. Customers want to be able to retrieve any version of any information, easily and quickly. The protection team needs to have a catalog of the company’s information – from local snapshots to backup copies to offsite/cloud copies to their deep archives. By taking on the responsibilities that everybody in the organization deems necessary, but that nobody wants to do, the protection team gains the credibility to consolidate data protection.
Only by bringing together all three modules of the protection storage architecture can the central protection team deliver the services, performance, and visibility that the business and its customers need.
From Blueprint to Reality?
The protection storage architecture is a blueprint to guide the transformation of data protection from the chaos of the accidental architecture to a clean, centralized protection service. Like all blueprints, however, there are two things to remember.
First, like my son’s 2000+ piece Lego set, you’re not going to build the solution in one day; it takes time and patience. Set a journey with key milestones and enjoy the evolution. Second, like a Lego set, you need more detailed descriptions of what to build.
Over the coming series and at EMC World next week, I’ll dive more deeply into each of the architectural components. Your organization will appreciate your streamlined, elegant protection architecture… because, as Mies van der Rohe said of his designs, “Less is more.”