I read a blog post the other day entitled “Is Copy Data Management a Replacement for Backup?” One of the big reasons this topic has popped up is because 90% of revenue from the “vendors” the author talks about comes from backup. This article comes on the heels of Microsoft coming out saying ‘backup software is dead’. In addition, in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant ‘Strategic Planning Assumptions’ they said:

  • By 2016, 20% of the organizations, up from 7% today, will employ only snapshot and replication techniques, abandoning traditional backup/recovery.
  • By 2017, 70% of organizations will have replaced their remote-office tape backup with a disk-based backup solution that incorporates replication, up from 30% today.
  • By 2019, there will be a 50% increase in the number of large enterprises eliminating tape for operational recovery.
  • By 2018, the number of organizations abandoning tape for backup will double, whereas archiving to tape will increase 25%.

‘Backup’ is such a religious battle. The reality is that ‘backup’ as it exists today, is broken, we have all heard it and read about this fact for the last decade. With datacenter environments changing so dramatically over the last few years with server virtualization, cloud and new applications such as hadoop, there is always a reason to upend your data protection environment. Let’s also not forget the number of backup solutions companies have deployed in their environment to tackle these new architectures. Spending money on yet one more backup solution has become less of a big deal, especially if IT believes the ‘new’ solution is going to solve a problem. But it rarely does. There have been a number of surveys done that reflect the fact that Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) are rarely met. Add to all of this the fact that IT purchases storage arrays that have a number of storage services, including, snapshotting, as a way to provide better data access (protection) they need. Yet when it comes to snapshots, IT seems to have no issue setting them up, but for the most part, the snapshots remain unutilized when they really could be leveraged to enable better data access and better protection. In fact, “Mr. Backup”, Curtis Preston did a nice article on using snapshots for backups. At the end of the day, there is a lot of technology in place and IT dollars being spent to try to solve an age-old problem.

So it’s no wonder that when a new technology comes along that takes a new approach to solving not just one, but multiple business issues, IT will pick their head up and take notice, especially if that solution can make your current data protection process that much better.

Let’s take a step back and think for a moment about what copy data is and what copy data management can do for an environment. ‘Copy Data’ is the creation of copy after copy of system images, files, or other electronic data as a result of multiple siloed business operations such as disaster recovery, business continuity, test, development, and analytics all operating independently of each other. Each of these applications performs essentially the same functions: copy, move, optimize and store. Sound like your processes?

‘Copy Data Management’ is the process of gaining control of and providing the ability to leverage these data copies to make these business operations (data protection) more efficient, provide better RPOs / RTOs, an easier to manage.

Data protection today is like an insurance policy. And much like insurance, the only time you think of your backups is when you have to pay for it or when you need it (just like your car insurance). Copy data management is about the ability to leverage the data that you have copied in your environment, in this case in the form of snapshots, for multiple business solutions INCLUDING data protection. Yes, you need to ensure the copy data management solution provides the appropriate set of features that allow for proper data recovery such as application consistent snaps and not just snaps from the storage but from the hypervisor as well. It is this application consistent snaps that enable a robust data protection (and DR) solution.

I do realize that without the proper tools, leveraging your snapshots is difficult. The ability to utilize your snaps for data protection requires a few things. First, you need a catalog of your snapshots, just like your backup catalog, in order to ensure you are making the right data available when requested. Secondly you need the ability to have exception reporting. Again, like your backups, you need to have the ability, when a snap, mirror or vault doesn’t complete, you need to have insight to that fact (and it would be even better if you knew why it failed). Next you need to have the ability to have these snaps be application consistent. You also need the ability to mirror your existing data protection policies to make sure you have the right copies of data put away for the right business purposes. And finally, how great would it be if you could have full automation of not only the creation of the snaps but the utilization of the snaps as well?

These are the basic requirements for utilizing snaps for backup. Until now, I may have agreed with the first article I highlighted but now, there is technology from Catalogic Software (their ECX Copy Data Management Platform) that provides all of these functions for snapshots, vaults and mirrors enabling better overall data protection and disaster recovery. Oh, and did I mention that if your in a VM environment you can do all of this without agents? The ECX solution provides IT with better RPOs and RTOs for data in any location (including the cloud) and with its automation capabilities enables automated disaster recovery (good bye long DR test weekends). The solution lets you look back over your shoulder and ask, “Do I really need another data domain box?” or “Do I really need more backup licenses?” By not duplicating a process (doing backups AND doing snapshots) and leveraging your snapshots for recovery, you’re well on your way to gaining huge CapEx and OpEx savings; you’re doing Copy Data Management!

The great thing about this solution is that first, you’re already creating your snapshots, you’re just not utilizing them so why not deploy a solution that helps you to do so. Additionally, the solution is very inexpensive for the value and the savings it can provide. Lastly, you can run the solution side by side with your backup application to see how it works without impacting anything in your environment.

Because backup is such a religious battle, I do think, much like Gartner says, this solution is for the IT crowd that “get it” and want to advance their datacenter to the next level. I equate this to the 10% of folks who were the first to deploy data deduplication. But just like deduplication, the rest of the IT pack was looking back 18/24 months later saying “I really wish I would have done this sooner”.


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