You may have recently read The Backup Window’s May 17 post “Forget the Drapes…How’s Your Plumbing?”, in which Heidi Biggar talks about the important relationship between backup architecture and application deployment, productivity, innovation and ultimately revenue.
Also in that article, Heidi shared a video of Guy Churchward, president of EMC’s Backup Recovery Systems division, at EMC World last month. In this video, Guy compares backup to the plumbing of a house – without backup, it doesn’t matter what the rest of your environment looks like because you won’t be able to scale to address exponential growth due to big data.
I’m going to take that argument one step further and tell you that while having a good backup and recovery infrastructure (a.k.a. the plumbing) IS important, effective management of that infrastructure may require you to mask it. Let me explain.
Modern, unified, non-disruptive data protection infrastructures are complex, though you might not have all the components shown here in play today. It really depends on what the business need actually is.
Starting on the left side we see some virtualized hosts with applications, some physical hosts and primary storage. You may have some particularly challenging mission-critical applications with aggressive RTOs and RPOs. You may be using replication for those. But, all of this needs to be backed up and protected. You’re likely using your backup manager of choice, which may also be backing up your VMs directly. And eventually those safe sets of data are going to make their way down to an archive device.
That’s the infrastructure Guy spoke of – it’s important and it performs a vital task for your business. However, as I mentioned, it’s complex. It’s simply not possible to effectively monitor each data protection component individually, particularly if there are multiple backup applications or many archive devices. Visibility is crucial, and in order to get a holistic, end-to-end view of the environment you need to mask the complexity. That’s where data protection management software like Data Protection Advisor can help.
Case in point: in speaking with many customers over the past few years we’ve learned that the SLAs they were being asked to meet as part of their organizations’ transformation processes weren’t focused on the individual success of an individual backup (i.e., they didn’t care whether a backup occurred on the first, second or nth time of asking) but rather the speed and precision of the overall process. Customers really wanted to know that their data was being protected within specified time periods and that it had reached the designated vaulting location/device.
And to be able to do this, you need to be able to see and manage the entire environment.
Abstracting Management as a Change-Enabler
There is another important capability these tools bring. By separating the management view of the protection infrastructure from the various technologies deployed, IT is empowered to implement operative changes to the environment. (I’ll explain this too.)
Service providers and enterprise IT shops alike are looking for ways to beat out the competition by investing in new technologies that will help differentiate in terms of cost or performance. But by swapping one technology for another, management and visibility of the protection environment are lost, or at least broken. Each new technology brings its own variation on ‘how things should be done’.
However, by abstracting management views of the entire environment away from the underlying technology, the service provider’s management view and control of end-to-end protection processes are buffered from any change in the data protection ‘plumbing’. These management tools become a change enabler (or transformation enabler) by simplifying the environment and removing the worry and hassle that often accompany transformation. In other words, your management tools can become a change enabler independent from your underlying data protection technology.
Somewhat related to this is EMC’s recent announcement of ViPR Software-Defined Storage. You’ve probably heard how ViPR can Virtualize Everything. Compromise Nothing.
ViPR provides a revolutionary approach to storage automation and management to transform existing heterogeneous physical storage into a simple, extensible and open virtual storage platform. This means that organizations don’t have to give up choice as their organizations grow and management costs don’t have to go through the roof either.
With ViPR, organizations get a simple, unified way to manage virtual and physical storage that not only protects their investments today, but can also dynamically adapt and respond to future requirements.
While DPA isn’t quite the same as ViPR, and ViPR is intended for primary storage, the underlying goal is the same: simplify complexity through automation and centralized management.
And that gives you the freedom of choice and the flexibility to select the plumbing components you need to drive your transformation.