Is Your Business Ready to Take on the Digital Universe?

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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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“Like the physical universe, the digital universe is large – by 2020 containing nearly as many digital bits as there are stars in the universe. It is doubling in size every two years, and by 2020 the digital universe – the data we create and copy annually – will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes.”—2014 EMC Digital Universe Study

Sounds ominous but there’s no escaping it; our world is being invaded by data.

So, the question begs, is your business up to the challenges and opportunities all this data will present, however many petabytes, exabytes or zettabytes this may mean? Or will it fold under the pressure? Continue reading

Does Big Data Have to Be Big?

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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One of my hot button issues these days is Big Data.

By many media and vendor accounts, Big Data is simply that: big data. Large volumes of structured or unstructured data the likes of which are generally associated with companies in data-crunching industries like oil and gas, seismology, genomics and finance.

Even Wikipedia defines Big Data as “the collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing.” Continue reading

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

Sixth Day of Blogmas: Is Big Data Too Big to Back Up?

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).

Is the new Boeing Dreamliner too big for safety inspections? Was the Titanic too big to need lifeboats? Are some banks too big to follow basic asset safety rules? Was Gmail too big to lose data?

So, is big data too big to back up? Definitely not.  But that doesn’t mean you can back up Big Data with traditional backup techniques. Big Data’s volume, variety, and velocity (the 3 V’s) force backup teams to transform their approach.

  • Volume – As data capacity increases, traditional backup and recovery windows become unmanageable. This is not a new challenge, but big data accelerates the pain. Full backup and recovery become virtually irrelevant when you approach windows of multiple days. Incremental backups will scale only if you leverage intelligence in the data source; on its own, a backup agent cannot find the new data fast enough. Granular recoveries become challenging either due to the size of the objects to recover, or due to the process of sifting through trillions of objects to locate the object. The answer to the volume challenge is versioned replication. Intelligent data sources drive rapid backups to deduplicated disk. The deduplicated disk synthesizes the incremental changes into full, space-efficient, native format backup copies. If a primary system fails, the customer can instantly run that application directly off the backup copy – no need to wait for a full restore. If the customer needs to recover a large object, he can directly access the backup copy. If the backup team is searching for a specific object in the sea of storage, they can rapidly search through the data to find the information. Versioned replication is the only way to scale to meet Big Data’s volume.
  • Variety – As the types of data increase, so do the applications that create and utilize that data. Therefore, it is increasingly difficult for the backup team to deliver a one-size-fits-all centralized solution for all those applications. Backup tools can’t build application-intelligent agents fast enough to cover all the customers’ use cases. Furthermore, the application owners expect more visibility and control over their backups, so they don’t want to be relegated to a bystander role in the protection of their data. The only way to cope with these changes is for the backup team to offer a variety of services to the application teams, to help them meet protection SLAs. In some cases, the backup team will run the backups. In others they will provide the backup storage, cataloging, and reporting. In still others, they may offer only the cataloging and reporting. In other words, they need to transform their backup environment and behave like service providers to their big data customers.
  • Velocity – Big data users want high-performance access large amounts of data, whenever they need it. Therefore, there is no backup window. Backup must minimize its resource impact on the production environment. This is the heart of versioned replication – minimal load on the data source and network, with no moving parts. Second, recoveries must happen quickly. Again, nothing is faster than leveraging protected data directly off the backup storage. Deduplicated disk may not have the I/O performance of primary disk, but can still provide reduced performance access to your data. Ultimately, there’s nothing faster than instantly accessing your data, instead of waiting hours for recoveries to complete.

In other words, Big Data protection is all about versioned replication to deduplicated disk, with the backup team shifting into a service provider role. Not surprisingly, our most successful customers are following that same transformation for their traditional data!

Whether your backup transformation is being driven by building a private cloud, big data, absorbing multiple acquisitions, or just doing more with less the transformation is the same.

Big data is not too big to back up, if you’re willing to change.

Third Day of Blogmas: The Right Architecture Is Priceless

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).

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.”

Game-changing Protection Storage Architecture

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?

  1. Over the next three years, the protection team will be expected to deliver multiple services: disaster recovery, backup and archive.
  2. 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.”

Themes of #the12daysofblogmas, 2013.

Themes of #the12daysofblogmas, 2013.