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Taneja Blog / Cloud / Data Center Systems / Data Protection/Management

Backup Balancing Act: Growing Pains with Data Backup and the Cost of Migration

Backup these days is, as I view it, an incredibly interesting topic. Data protection has always been a challenging operation for the business. When you think about it, it is one of the most physical of systems, requiring tremendous amounts of data movement and storage - moving and storing the same bits over and over again with such requirements for speed and then storage that the task has at many different times in the history of IT seemed like mission impossible. In turn, the storage systems for data protection have always been highly specialized in order to deal with these large amounts of data, especially when trying to do so cost effectively, and this has historically made the backup infrastructure fairly inflexible and difficult to adapt. This had implications for archive too - as the dual focus of long term retention and low cost has often resulted in practitioners turning to very similar technologies for archiving.

Now, as we stare down the changes going on around us, the challenges are getting bigger and seemingly meaner.

The root of many of these challenges is that data is exploding, and now in the face of the cloud, getting more complicated.

You likely see this happening irrespective of the breadth of your data protection focus - you may just be focused on the data center, or on a restricted set of application servers, or you may be focused on information spread across many systems. Data everywhere is exploding.

But no matter your focus, anyone thinking about backup today also has concerns about data growth, and whether their backup approach will last in the face of data growth. Why? Today's data growth has massive implications on physical capability because it is redefining the complexity of data access and protection for the backup practitioner. Data is spreading out and becoming scattered. 

But, the challenges associated with this are actually pretty deep. One example, as data managers, we've always had concerns about longevity and data portability.

If you've done this for very long, you know that cross-generation backup migrations are painful.  Switching formats is hard enough, never mind the enormous pain that comes from trying to migrate old backup formats, whether disk or tape.  Just think for a moment what the implications are here when it comes to the cloud. If you're moving data back and forth across a wire, the idea of data migration may be tenfold more painful than migrating between tape formats, and this was already painful enough.

Meanwhile, it goes without saying, that today stuff seems to be moving a lot more.  If you're protecting data in an infrastructure of substantial size you're likely trying to deal with this on a daily basis.  Backup is now in part about trying to hit a moving target.

Then finally, in the face of more complicated data protection, the business demands for impressive SLAs only continue to increase, while administrator cycles for managing backup go down. This is an age-old balancing act for data protection, and it only seems more challenging when things might be more fluid and scattered than ever before. 

If you're not careful, it can be too easy to find that you're working with a hodge-podge of solution pieces when you're trying to pull off this balancing act.  Moreover, since archiving all too often intersects with the backup strategy, this may only make things worse.

These are things to keep in mind as you're minding your shop and IT strategy, and very likely thinking that backup is a largely steady state operational task today.  In the face of SSDs, virtualization, management, cloud, and various other initiatives, it may seem like backup is on cruise controller.  But trust me, those crocodiles look harmless when you're not paying attention. 

We've also done a few interesting projects in this space lately.  One is with Riverbed Granite, that allows the branch office to move to a converged infrastructure on a single piece of hardware (no matter how complex or how many applications) and keep data managed in the data center by using SSD to cache data in a stateless manner at the branch.  This can reinvent data protection, and that report details just how Granite performs. Another example is HP's continued advancements of Data Protection and StoreOnce - another report here.  And finally, even primary technologies like Tintri and VSAN have backup implications.  NetNet, what some of this suggests, is there's a data protection angle for nearly everything you consider these days.  If you've got your waders on, and you're not paying attention to backup as you wade into new technologies, well, look out.

  • Premiered: 04/03/14
  • Author: Taneja Group
Topic(s): Data protection Storage Cloud Backup Disaster Recovery DR Riverbed Tintri VMWare VSAN SSD Flash Archive Disk SLA Tape

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