By Michael Voigt
In today’s business climate, data is king. Increasingly, companies use data for the majority of business tasks and strategic decisions, making it their most valuable asset. Like any other investment, data needs to be protected, stored, and easily accessible in a way which it can shine. As more organizations demand flexible and instant access to their data, IT departments find they must manage these business-critical workloads along with a rising number of virtual machines (VMs).
Simultaneously, data management and protection is becoming increasingly time consuming and complex. IT professionals supporting virtual platforms, such as VMware, often need to perform data restores while also managing backups to give businesses the data they need, when they need it.
Many different trends in backup and data protection emerge as IT teams work to properly answer the explosion of data. Five key trends seen with VMware, Hyper-V, and other virtual environments include new backup applications, snapshots and replications, storage media, backup versus architecture, and big data backup.
New Backup Applications
Today, many organizations consider replacing or augmenting backup applications. The move to VMware environments is one of the biggest reasons for this trend, as virtual workloads can be inefficient and cumbersome to protect if you’re using old backup software. However, buying separate VM backup software can lead to as many problems as it fixes. For example, more administration skills are required and disaster recovery plans can become more complex if backups are stored in multiple systems.
Backup is all about scenarios and use cases. It’s important to be able to support both traditional and new virtual environments with the same team and infrastructure. That way, you have the flexibility to implement the right backup strategy for the right use case.
Snapshots and Replication
Snapshot and remote replication adoption is steadily increasing as application owners become less tolerant of downtime and the risk of data loss. As a result, some organizations look into employing only snapshot and replication instead of traditional backup and recovery solutions.
With snapshot backups for VMware, it’s possible to manage thousands of VMs more easily than you could with traditional methods. However, advanced data protection comes at a cost, so it’s usually not the right solution for all of the workloads in an organization. Most organizations should expect to provide a variety of data protection services, including traditional backups, frequent snapshots, and continuous remote replication. Application owners can then upgrade and downgrade services with a clear understanding of the relative costs and risks.
It’s important that administrators have the ability to manage backups and restores efficiently, whether the backups are standard or snapshots. Where replication is used, administrators must be able to manage remote failover and fail-back for replicated environments. Consider the cost of training and maintaining staff expertise in the total cost of any solution.
Even though there has been a rise in disk-to-disk backup, many large organizations still rely on disk-to-disk-to-tape backup for certain purposes. Disk can be used to store the recent backups, which are the ones most likely to be needed for fast restores. Restore times from disk backups and snapshots are more predictable and typically much faster than tape. Efficiency features—such as deduplication—make disk storage affordable for more backup data. Tape is a “green,” low-cost storage technology, often used for backups with long retention periods and inactive archives. Ultimately, modern data protection systems should be able to use any media type without added complexity so they can run with optimal flexibility, performance, and efficiency.
Backup vs. Archives
What is a backup that never expires? Is it a backup or an archive? Many organizations can reduce costs and improve backup performance by implementing policies that separate backup and archive activities. Backups should expire quickly—in days or weeks—because they are used to restore primary data. Archives are used to preserve data that may have been deleted from primary systems long ago. Archives and backups have different data protection requirements. The ability to optimize storage for each workload can have a significant financial impact.
Big Data Backup
Backing up big data is becoming an issue, but only for the estimated 30 percent of big data that requires backup. Applications that use big data often use a combination of internally managed data and data managed by others, available in the public domain or by subscription via new systems of engagement—or the increasingly growing number of mobile and social applications. Future insights come from deploying better analytics against internal and external data, rather than by hosting more data.
Data hosted on VMs will make up much of the big data that must be backed up. As such, VM-hosted data used for big data or analytics can become business critical, which changes the data protection requirements. Data protection systems may need to adapt quickly as data use changes.
Know your options
As more types of applications are hosed on VMs, administrators face a broader range of data protection requirements. The good news is you have options. Migrations are easier than ever, so there’s no reason to settle for backup systems that don’t meet your data protection needs. SW
Michael Voigt is a virtualization architect with IBM Global Technology Services.
Aug2014, Software Magazine