It’s a hybrid world

Alex Meehan looks how the way businesses store and back up data is changing

7th January, 2020

When it comes to data storage and backup modernisation projects, business leaders want the benefits of a hybrid and multi-cloud world. That’s the message from Paul Bradley, senior software development manager with Dell Technologies, who went on to say that this is the dominant factor influencing how many companies are upgrading.

“For data storage, many organisations require low-latency networks for their critical applications in order to meet their performance needs. They want their IT partners, including Dell Technologies, to work with them to develop a data strategy with modern scale-out storage designed for the mission-critical applications of today and ready for future needs,” he said.

Application integration is also critical for an IT modernisation project, and modern data storage arrays require built-in integration from VMware, Ansible and Kubernetes.

“Data retention and archive must be built into storage modernisation. Over an application’s lifetime, for example, backups will age and those backups may need to be migrated to lower tiers of storage or to the cloud,” said Bradley.

“From my perspective, I’m seeing that organisations are increasingly putting in place a cohesive multi-cloud strategy that provides performance, optimisation and agility gains while allowing for the rapid evaluation and adoption of emerging technologies.”

According to Bradley, for many businesses in Ireland performance is a key criteria in modernisation projects and that can drive a lot of the decision points with respect to the data storage that they choose. Many are looking for simplicity and automation, and one example of the most frequent requests from clients is their need to have application programme interface (API) available to allow orchestration and integration with technologies such as Ansible.

“We’ve seen a customer trend towards automation, and this is reflected in the popularity of our recently-released Dell Technologies PowerOne which takes the best of breed components in compute, storage and networking and ties them together via PowerOne Fabric, managed through an automation engine named the PowerOne Controller,” Bradley said.

“Customers are also looking for more choice, flexibility and predictable outcomes from modern data storage projects. They want flexible payment options for an extensive range of technologies across the full infrastructure stack including compute, storage, networking and virtualisation.”

This aspect of the as-a-service model, in which companies pay for access and use of infrastructure rather than outright ownership, is one that is showing no sign of diminishing in popularity. It has, of course, been driven by the advent of cloud technology and the ability to move information around quickly and reliably.

“Lots of things have changed over the last five years,” said Grant Caley, chief technologist for NetApp UK and Ireland. “The cloud is now an option for data storage and backup, and not just for running a data centre. That’s a big factor in the data storage equation.

“We do data storage and management in both of those locations, because we’ve had to adapt to what the customer wants. The choice of which one they use is often driven by either strategy, if they have a CIO strategy that trumps everything, or a reason based on cost or compliance issues. Issues like GDPR, security and data sovereignty can come up here.”

Companies have lots of decisions to make before they start looking at the deeper mechanics of data storage and backup regarding where they want to host data. NetApp recommends looking at things from the point of view of the application down rather than the infrastructure up.

“That has a lot of implications on what type of platform you might want to use for backup,” said Caley. “For example you have to decide in advance how you’re going to deploy the application, using container technologies like Kubernetes or OpenStack, or whether you’re going to go more traditional and use virtual servers or even bare metal servers.

“That will create a set of criteria which will influence how you will look at managing the storage through those platforms.”

According to Darragh Canavan, sales director of Datastring, the storage and back-up industry is moving away from a traditional files-folders-database approach to storage and towards a model based on the online availability of servers.

“It’s about taking snapshots of a server and making it available in the cloud for a doomsday type of scenario. While there are loads of companies still operating the files-folders-databases model, there is also a big increase in companies doing things this new way,” he said.

“If you look at a business with 100 or 200 users, they were traditionally doing some kind of tape or manual backup off-site. In other words they were doing on-prem(ises) replication, so that if a server crashed they could spin up a back-up. Usually they didn’t really have a disaster recovery plan or any kind of off-site plan.”

The reason is that it was too expensive to build out an off-site replication facility, complete with redundant desks, chairs and servers.

“But things become a lot easier,” said Canavan. “You can scrap a lot of your legacy replication products on-prem and you can scrap your replication and even your old cloud back up products. It’s much easier to just implement a replication solution that replicates directly to the cloud for fail-over and backup.

“The reality is that the majority, if not all, companies have a hybrid model where at least some of their software is in the cloud, such as email or CRM. It’s indicative of the growth of the as-a-service model of computing that this is so popular, but often people don’t realise that they have an obligation under data protection legislation to back those systems up.”

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