Backups: How Australian channel is balancing on-prem vs cloud

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This article appeared in the June 2015 issue of CRN magazine.

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Backups: How Australian channel is balancing on-prem vs cloud
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Another vendor capitalising on this demand for software that enables stored data to be reused is Actifio, says ANZ regional manager Budd Ilic.

“[Backup] data gets stored in a proprietary format and sits there idle. The customer gets no benefit from it; it’s just an expensive insurance policy,” Ilic says. 

“Actifio stores a copy of that data in application format so it can be reused – recover or do test and development. Do analytics or business intelligence against the data. The value we provide is significantly more than just pure backup and recovery.”

Ilic says Actifio’s 4KB block incremental backups helped a government customer with an 8TB database speed up its development and testing. “They couldn’t provision it all because of the time and disk space, so they could only provision subsets. When it comes time to recover, we don’t have to move the data back. We just ask from which point they want to recover.”

A similar problem beset Westpac New Zealand, limiting it to testing a fifth of its data. “There was no single source of data so it was hard to control the data they were trying to test. The development cycles were taking far too long. For any organisation that wants to be [responsive] in the market, speed is the essence.”

Ilic says Actifio helped the bank cut development cycles from nine to two months: “Now they provision the entire dataset to all their test and dev environments near instantaneously.”

Few customers choose just one backup and recovery solution: it’s common for products to provide layers of protection. Veeam ANZ vice president Don Williams says the DR and virtualisation backup vendor is often used alongside solutions such as Actifio.

“We’re looking at Veeam as core backup and recovery but Actifio is more about data management conversation where there’s hundreds of terabytes of data used for test/dev and analytics,” Williams says. One Veeam customer, a real estate business with 10,000 users, consolidated its Asia-Pacific operations in a Sydney data centre, improved uptime and time to recover while providing a secondary benefit of the data.

“They can test new releases and patches in a production environment,” Williams says. “It gives that data a day-time job so it’s not just an insurance policy.”

Harnessing backup data

Hosted Network managing director Ben Town says resellers should consider emergent uses for backup data. “A customer was getting a second opinion because their IT provider had a line item for offsite backups that quoted five external hard drives, so there’s a lot of legacy thinking.” 

Hosted Network is a NSW-based cloud provider of white-label solutions for resellers and managed services providers. 

“Resellers can easily restore to our public cloud infrastructure whereas before you look at legacy applications and backups, there’s a lot of downtime. Now with [Veeam] Cloud Connect it’s so simple: you enter a password and username and you’re ready to do backup offsite. It allows resellers to provide a better service by keeping it simple.”

But there’s a limit on how many secondary and tertiary uses customers can expect from their backup data, cautions Danny Elmarji, senior manager systems engineer with storage vendor EMC.

“We’ve had customers ask to leverage backup [for] business intelligence and over time we’ll see an [evolution but] what we see customers use the data for initially is auditing the backup for compliance,” says Elmarji.

He says that because of data cost and efficiency, “if you’re looking to do things like run MapReduce calls against your backup datasets, we’re not quite there yet”.

Customers see gains by combining on-premise and public cloud such as AWS’ long-term storage product, Glacier, he adds. “They’re looking at it because of the cost. We embrace public cloud as a [hybrid] strategy but we need to make sure that IT and the business understands what they’re getting.”

Elmarji says a big retail customer planned to move tapes into public cloud: “What’s important is how they catalogue and control and maintain that data.” That could mean moving data to AWS’ short-term Simple Storage and then move to Glacier after 30 days. “We’re helping customers define the retention period based on cost.” 



Breakout: Wellington University case study

It’s common for a customer not to know what they don’t know, says Andrew Fox, formerly chief executive of Kiwi CommVault partner and cloud integrator ViFX. In the case of Wellington University in New Zealand, it had all the right functioning parts but lacked a plan for its data management, he say.

“It was about service improvement. They had backup, a lot of storage – a huge sprawl – and advanced functions like de-dupe,” CommVault head of channel sales Ash Diffey says. “We bolted our team to their IT team and did a top-to-toe on their environment. They’ve gone from where they didn’t understand the data they had and didn’t know where it all was: some appropriately backed up, some over the top, to a point where they report over 99 percent success rate on backups, so in the event they need it back they can get it at the snap of a finger rather than going through a crisis.” 

Fox says universities are competing globally in a cut-throat race for students, so having an outage at a critical time such as during enrolments is an “enormous” risk. “Not understanding where the data was, what was important and what wasn’t; the decisions made before about prioritising data were out of date. They weren’t confident
they could lay their hands on what was critical.”

The first phase was six months from scope and design to implementation but the project “will never finish because they’re looking at the next step of cloud and Azure,” he says. “There were quick wins from rearchitecting the data; it was definitely an information management approach.”

Diffey says the vendor’s software “tags” data. “We know where it is through its lifecycle regardless of where it’s placed.”

“We’re hardware agnostic; we can reach across tiered storage – on-prem, off-prem and hybrid.”

Fox says “flexibility” is a key concern for customers and their partners. “In the past, you can restore anything you want from tape so long as you restore the whole lot. You have to restore the entire Exchange environment just to get one lost email. Now we have the flexibility to bring stuff back as granularly as you like.”



Breakout: From DR to strategic DM

Another way for resellers to ease their customers’ backup burden is to step back and talk about strategic use of data, says Noel Allnutt, general manager of sales at Sydney-based data management provider Solista, which partners with the likes of Actifio, Zerto, HP, Cisco and Microsoft Azure.

“We start them thinking about backup by having a broader conversation around data management,” Allnut says. “We look at how they will use that data more efficiently and a lot of that starts with taking a copy of that backup and using it for various [purposes]. This is where a lot of customers are flying blind; a relatively small rganisation, to be compliant, might have 40-50TB of data.”

A common refrain of storage experts is for customers to prioritise data: keep close what’s most important on a daily basis and slide less tactical data onto cheaper storage. But customers struggle to scope how much data to keep. De-duplication that cuts redundant copies like email attachments, and incremental backups that add to the master or ‘gold’ copy are options.

Danny Elmarji, senior manager systems engineer with EMC, says the storage vendor can knock out 99 percent of redundant data: “We’re getting very efficient at dedupe; we’re storing petabytes of data on a single rack.” 



Breakout: Stop calling it 'backup'

Ronnie Altit would strike ‘backup’ from the channel’s vocabulary. Altit is the founder of Sydney-based Insentra, the ‘reseller’s outsourcer’ that was recently named Symantec’s services partner of the year for the fourth year running. 

“It should be called data protection,” says Altit. Users should be strategic with their data: what to capture, where it sits, how to use it and what to ignore. 

“A lot of work we’re doing helps organisations gain insights.” He says that much backup data is “under-accessed, underused and not needed”. 

“Historically, toolsets haven’t provided deep insights so organisations just kept data forever.” 

This is especially true with email archives, an Insentra specialty. “Do you need to [store] data for users who are no longer in the organisation?” 

Insentra is moving 180TB of a customer’s email data to the cloud, so it must know if government regulations cover it. “Organisations say, ‘We don’t know if we need to keep this data, so we’ll keep it [perhaps for later analytics]’. But why would you keep information of no relevance to your business?”

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