Data protection is probably the most fundamental requirement in Information Technology (IT), and is generally aligned with storage overall. But, data protection is perceived as overhead — a tax on IT operations.
Because of that, data protection gets attention (and major funding) when there is a significant problem. There is an increasing problem in getting the protection done in the allotted time, meeting the recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO). With capacity demand growing, the current methods of protecting data are being examined to improve the approaches.
At the Dell Storage Forum in Boston last week, there was more talk that IT has made a transition to include the use of snapshot and replication in the data protection process. Snapshots, or point-in-time copies that are synchronized with applications for a coherent snapshot copy, have become the primary means for making a copy that can meet the RTO for many of the primary cases where restores are required. About 90% of restores occur within 30 days of when that data was created or updated. The snapshots are typically done using features in the storage system, but may also use special host software.
Replication is typically a remote copy that is used for disaster protection and leveraged also for restores of data that may have been damaged (corrupted or deleted) locally. The mechanics of the recovery varies significantly between the different vendor solutions.
Backup is still used and still a valuable tool in the data protection arsenal. It is now just a part of the overall picture which includes snapshots and replication. Extensions to backup software are capitalizing on these transitions by IT and include such capabilities as invoking the storage system-based snapshots, managing the catalog of snapshot copies, and managing the remote copies of data.
Exploitation of storage system or hypervisor-based features such as Changed Block Tracking are another means to improve the data protection by reducing the amount of time required and the amount data. This is another developing area and will be a differentiator between different backup software solutions and the storage system hardware that has those capabilities.
Backup software will effectively need to be renamed to something that reflects that what it does goes beyond traditional backup.
The transitions occurring in data protection are being driven by IT to meet requirements to protect data while also meeting operational considerations. Software and hardware solutions can enable the transitions and make the operations more seamless. This will continue to be a developing area – both for vendor products and the adoption by IT.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).