Oracle OpenWorld Goers: It’s Time to Recalibrate

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).

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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.

VMworld Goers: The Revolution Isn’t Going to Wait for You

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).

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Sometimes, a technology revolution is so powerful that its disruption cascades through multiple markets. VMware’s server virtualization has triggered that “once in a generation” upheaval. What began as a response to processors shifting from faster cores to more cores has changed how we design storage, networks and… now data protection.

From Backup to Data Protection

Relentless data growth has driven traditional backups to the edge. Each day, full backups and restores have become less practical. The rapid deployment of VMware brought the crisis to a head. In addressing challenges with backup and recovery, VMware has shifted the market from legacy server-centric backup to infrastructure-centric data protection services:

  • Scaling Backup: To lessen the strain its consolidation put on the traditional backup infrastructure, VMware added Changed Block Tracking. This has become the catalyst for the new wave of versioned replication solutions (a.k.a. “CDP for the masses,” “snap & replicate without the vendor lock-in”, or “full backups in fewer than 5 minutes”).
  • Scaling Recovery: When consolidation pushed full recovery windows to the brink of viability, VMware helped transform the approach to large recoveries. First, with Changed Block Recovery, customers can run a near-instant rollback of any corrupted VM. Second, with the encapsulation of the VM, customers can also gain “instant access” to any protected VM. Unlike the horrific Bare Metal Restore experiences, trying to bring up new hardware, customers simply boot a VM from their protection storage and storage vMotion it at their convenience. No more sweating through downtime during full restores.

In doing so, VMware has become the catalyst for shifting the conversation from backup to data protection: versioned replication converges backup (multi-version retention with granular recovery) and disaster recovery (replication with near-instant bulk recovery).

From “My Way” to Protection Services

VMware has been at the forefront of the transformation of the backup team into protection service providers. When the backup teams could not provide sufficient protection services to the VM team, the server virtualization team went rogue. They deployed their own versioned replication protection solutions. They found that, not only did they like the performance, but they also liked the visibility and control of protecting and recovering VMs.

The backup team can no longer offer traditional “backup as a black box.” The VM and application administrators will not blindly trust the backup team. Too often, they have discovered batches of unprotected VMs or out-of-date backup copies. Even when things work, they’re frustrated by the overhead of interacting with the backup team to set up, modify or recover a VM backup.

Therefore, the protection team has to connect to their services to the VM customers via their preferred interfaces. As a result:

  • vSphere integration: Whether it is native backup building into vSphere (vSphere Data Protection) or a management interface that integrates with the central backup application, VM admins expect visibility into protection via their interface.
  • Automated, Policy-Based Protection: To improve the “time to” for bringing up VMs, teams expect the protection team to, by policy, automatically begin protecting new VMs.

VMware (and application) administrators drove the backup teams to open up their interfaces and to directly connect to their customers via their preferred interfaces – like any successful service provider must.

From Data Recovery to Environment Recovery

VMware has been helping disaster recovery become more automated. As discussed, instant access to the VM backup enables the team to boot a VM immediately after a disaster; this is much faster than provisioning a new server and restoring all the data. As any customer will tell you, however, most interesting applications comprise multiple VMs and the glue that ties them together. Furthermore, the application itself lives within a broader environment – network, security services, etc. They need environment recovery, not just VM recovery.

With the vision of “The Software-Defined Data Center” and the delivery of vCloud Director, VMware is making strides to encapsulate entire customer environments, to enable protection teams to up-level their services:

  • vApps: Traditionally both the application and protection teams could not track the relationships between different data sets in the environment. With vApps, however, the protection team can manage both the protection of the VMs and the dependencies among them. This will become a baseline feature for all protection.
  • Multi-Tenancy: Multi-tenancy demands that customer services be segmented, forcing more encapsulation of the environment. With vCloud Director, the protection team will need to evolve to support scale-out expansion on-demand, with API-driven (versus UI-driven) management.
  • Hybrid Cloud: As VMware blurs the lines between on/off-premise environments, protection teams will need to understand those distinctions (to ensure you have your data and metadata in the appropriate places).

In other words, as disruptive as VMware protection has been over the past few years – the new work with vCloud Director and vCloud Hybrid Services will raise the level of services (and expectations) yet again. This will challenge protection teams and vendors to keep up, but it will also present opportunities to solve problems that have eluded us for decades. How can we shift from simply backing up data to protecting entire application environments? It began with the shift to data protection, continued with the evolution to becoming a service provider and is now leaping into true cloud services. Now is the time to start planning for your future… the revolution isn’t going to wait for you.

Got questions? Ask me at our Meetup, Wednesday, 1:55PM, Booth #1207.

Tape is Alive? Inconceivable!

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).

To begin each year, Joe Tucci brings 400+ people together for the EMC Leadership Meeting. We spend a little time reflecting on the prior year, but most of it focusing on the future. After that, the Backup and Recovery Systems Division leadership spends another day planning our future. So, imagine my surprise when I saw, on the Backup and Recovery Professionals Group on LinkedIn, a thoughtful discussion about the role of tape in the backup environment. I’ve just spent a week discussing cloud, big data, and the evolution of data protection… and we’re still talking about tape? Inconceivable!

While I appreciate both the maturity of the discussion and the resiliency of tape, it’s a waste of time. Every moment spent talking about tape is a moment not spent discussing the future of data protection – deduplication, snapshots, versioned replication, cloud, ???. The opportunity cost of discussing tape frustrates me.

 Tape is not the answer of the future. It’s increasingly less useful in the present – unless you’re talking about data that you don’t ever intend to actually access again. Here’s the reasoning:

  • Full recovery from a complete server or storage array outage: As capacity increases, the only way to recover the data quickly enough to be useful is to have it online and spinning somewhere (e.g., replication). The issue here isn’t so much disk vs. tape as it is tape-centric backup architectures. If you need to wait until all of the data is restored to a new system (and writing data on the recovering system is usually the bottleneck), you’ve been down too long. Tape doesn’t hit the bar here.
  • Rollback from corruption: If most of the data is still good, but there’s been some corruption (user or system caused), the only way to recover quickly is some sort of changed block rollback (e.g., snapshot/clone rollback, changed block recovery for VMs, etc.). In general tape-centric backup architectures make rollbacks near-impossible.
  • Granular recovery: When it comes to granular recovery, it’s all about getting the right version of your data. In this case, recovery is all about backup – when you can do backup more frequently and store more copies (space-efficiently, of course), you’re more likely to get the version of the data you want. In general, disk-centric architectures that leverage some sort of data optimization (e.g., dedupe, snapshots, clones) enable you to keep more and more frequent backups.
  • Archival recovery: Traditionally, this has been where tape has made its arguments around relevance – long-term, cost-effective, low-power retention. But here’s the problem. In general, we’ve all agreed that backup is non-optimal for data archival. It’s rare that you can track the lifecycle of data (e.g., ‘I want to recover a file from server X, from 12 years ago. Does anybody remember what server the file was on 12 years ago?’), you’re unlikely to have the infrastructure to access it (e.g., ‘Does anybody have a DEC server with application X, version Y?’), and even less likely to manage the tape infrastructure lifecycle to enable the data recovery. As I’ve seen customers go tapeless at multiple companies (as I’ve worked at multiple vendors), they use the transition to disk to re-examine and reduce their retention periods, and deploy a true archival solution.

I think one customer put it best: “I’m legally required to store data for 30 years, but I’m not required by law or business to ever recover it. That data is perfect for tape.”

Do you think we need to spend more time talking about tape? Do you think tape has a bigger role to play today or in the future? If you had new money to spend, would you put it on tape? Am I being overly dismissive? Please weigh in here or on LinkedIn – Backup & Recovery Professionals Group.

 

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.

 

Projections for 2012: Democratized Backup, Quality Assurance and DR to the Cloud

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).

When I was younger, I believed chronicling the past was far simpler than predicting the future. Little did I know that “history” means “incessant squabbling over what really happened in the past” (did you know there are multiple active magazines about the American Civil War?). On the other hand, people very rarely check on the accuracy of predictions (which is why, between the predicting, pontificating and free donuts, CTO is the best job in the world). With the bar thus set, let’s talk about what will happen in 2012.

For some of you, the trends of 2011 may be your 2012 future. For those who have already taken those steps, we have some predictions about what’s awaiting you in 2012.

1)     We’re all backup admins now. Over the last decade, we became an increasingly data-centric world. Without data, the virtual machines, applications, and storage systems don’t do much. Since data is so important, everyone – application, virtual server, storage and backup administrators – wants more control over the protection of their data. With versioned replication becoming available to each of these administrators (Trend #1 from 2011), each team can run its own backups. Disk democratizes backup. Versioned replication delivers the performance that revolutionizes the backup process. The change will apply pressure to two areas:

  • Backup software will have to more fully embrace federations (Trend #3 from 2011). The backup application may not always touch the data since the application or hypervisor team may be running their own backups to the centralized backup storage. The backup application, however, must provide centralized visibility and control over all the protection processes in the company.
  • Storage-based versioned replication will have to evolve. While storage-based versioned replication was once on the cutting edge of data protection, it needs to innovate to remain relevant. Users demand protection policies at a VM or application granularity – not at a storage container (LUN, file system, volume) granularity. If the storage array cannot meet their versioned replication needs, their backup software, application or hypervisor can.

2)     Backup appliances – quality is job #1. In the past few years, the backup appliance market has focused on speeds and feeds. How fast? How big? While performance and scale will continue to be important, the mantra in 2012 will be “storage of last resort.” As you eliminate tape (Trend #2 from 2011), there is no safety net underneath your backup appliance (and if you do have tape, I’m not sure that’s the safety net you want to trust your business to). When you think about quality of the storage of last resort, remember to ask one thing: “When I need to restore – 5 minutes, 5 months or 5 years from now, will my data be there?” If you’re not sure, why are you wasting your money?

3)     Backup onsite, DR to the cloud. As small and medium businesses and mid-sized enterprises embrace disk (Trend #2 from 2011), their processes must change. They can’t stash their backup appliance in the trunk of their car or under their bed. They need that system to handle today’s restores and tonight’s backups. Meanwhile, they don’t have the bandwidth or faith in the cloud to eliminate all local backup copies. This is the perfect opportunity to add more powerful disaster recovery (DR) to their arsenal. They can efficiently replicate backups offsite to the cloud. Most often, the cloud will be a service offered by their local reseller, to help cope with trust and bandwidth concerns. Regardless of the provider, deduplicated backups and versioned replication will converge backup and DR – and accelerate some organizations’ journey to the cloud – even as they keep their most recent backup copies onsite.

Even a CTO isn’t reckless enough to predict that, in 150 years, there will be multiple magazines debating the battles that transformed the data protection industry in 2012 (but only because I predict that all magazines will be about the American Civil War by then). The world of data protection is changing in profound ways. Over the last 10 years, we have built up the necessary deduplicated disk infrastructure for the revolution. For the first time in memory, you have the chance to regain control, instead of trying to just hang on. You have the opportunity to shape your destiny, instead of merely reacting to others’ actions. You can truly lead the way to a better future. 2012 can be your year.