Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Levels of Automation and Precision Needed to Optimize Backup and Recovery in Virtualized Environments

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on the relationship between increased virtualization and the need for data backup and recovery.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Quest Software.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to BriefingsDirect.

Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on the relationship between increasingly higher levels of virtualization and the need for new data backup and recovery strategies.

We'll examine how the era of major portions of servers now being virtualized, has provided an on-ramp to attaining data lifecycle benefits and efficiencies. And at the same time, these advances are helping to manage complex data environments that consist of both physical and virtual systems.

What's more, the elevation of data to the lifecycle efficiency level is also forcing a rethinking of the culture of data, of who owns data, and when, and who is responsible for managing it in a total lifecycle across all applications and uses.

This is different from the previous and current system where it’s often a fragmented approach, with different oversight for data across far-flung instances and uses.

Lastly, our discussion focuses on bringing new levels of automation and precision to the task of solving data complexity, and of making always-attainable data the most powerful asset that IT can deliver to the business.

Here to share insights on where the data availability market is going and how new techniques are being adopted to make the value of data ever greater, we're joined by John Maxwell, Vice President of Product Management for Data Protection, at Quest Software. Welcome back, John. [Disclosure: Quest Software is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

John Maxwell: Hi, Dana. Thanks. It’s great to be here to talk on a subject that's near and dear to my heart.

Gardner: Let’s start at a high level. Why have virtualization and server virtualization become a catalyst to data modernization? Is this an unintended development or is this something that’s a natural evolution?

Maxwell: I think it’s a natural evolution, and I don’t think it was even intended on the part of the two major hypervisor vendors, VMware and Microsoft with their Hyper-V. As we know, 5 or 10 years ago, virtualization was touted as a means to control IT costs and make better use of servers.

Utilization was in single digits, and with virtualization you could get it much higher. But the rampant success of virtualization impacted storage and the I/O where you store the data.

Upped the ante

I
f you look at the announcements that VMware did around vSphere 5, around storage, and the recent launch of Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V, where Microsoft even upped the ante and added support for Fibre Channel with their hypervisor, storage is at the center of the virtualization topic right now.

It brings a lot of opportunities to IT. Now, you can separate some of the choices you make, whether it has to do with the vendors that you choose or the types of storage, network-attached storage (NAS), shared storage and so forth. You can also make the storage a lot more economical with thin disk provisioning, for example.

There are a lot of opportunities out there that are going to allow companies to make better utilization of their storage just as they've done with their servers. It’s going to allow them to implement new technologies without necessarily having to go out and buy expensive proprietary hardware.

From our perspective, the richness of what the hypervisor vendors are providing in the form of APIs, new utilities, and things that we can call on and utilize, means there are a lot of really neat things we can do to protect data. Those didn't exist in a physical environment.

It’s really good news overall. Again, the hypervisor vendors are focusing on storage and so are companies like Quest, when it comes to protecting that data.

Gardner: As we move towards that mixed environment, what is it about data that, at a high level, people need to think differently about? Is there a shift in the concept of data, when we move to virtualization at this level?

First of all, people shouldn’t get too complacent.



Maxwell: First of all, people shouldn’t get too complacent. We've seen people load up virtual disks, and one of the areas of focus at Quest, separate from data protection, is in the area of performance monitoring. That's why we have tools that allow you to drill down and optimize your virtual environment from the virtual disks and how they're laid out on the physical disks.

And even hypervisor vendors -- I'm going to point back to Microsoft with Windows Server 2012 -- are doing things to alleviate some of the performance problems people are going to have. At face value, your virtual disk environment looks very simple, but sometimes you don’t set it up or it’s not allocated for optimal performance or even recoverability.

There's a lot of education going on. The hypervisor vendors, and certainly vendors like Quest, are stepping up to help IT understand how these logical virtual disks are laid out and how to best utilize them.

Gardner: It’s coming around to the notion that when you set up your data and storage, you need to think not just for the moment for the application demands, but how that data is going to be utilized, backed up, recovered, and made available. Do you think that there's a larger mentality that needs to go into data earlier on and by individuals who hadn’t been tasked with that sort of thought before?

See it both ways

Maxwell: I can see it both ways. At face value, virtualization makes it really easy to go out and allocate as many disks as you want. Vendors like Quest have put in place solutions that make it so that within a couple of mouse clicks, you can expose your environment, all your virtual machines (VMs) that are out there, and protect them pretty much instantaneously.

From that aspect, I don't think there needs to be a lot of thought, as there was back in the physical days, of how you had to allocate storage for availability. A lot of it can be taken care of automatically, if you have the right software in place.

That said, a lot of people may have set themselves up, if they haven’t thought of disaster recovery (DR), for example. When I say DR, I also mean failover of VMs and the like, as far as how they could set up an environment where they could ensure availability of mission-critical applications.

For example, you wouldn’t want to put everything, all of your logical volumes, all your virtual volumes, on the same physical disk array. You might want to spread them out, or you might want to have the capabilities of replicating between different hypervisor, physical servers, or arrays.

Gardner: I understand that you've conducted a survey to try to find out more about where the market is going and what the perceptions are in the market. Perhaps you could tell us a bit about the survey and some of the major findings.

Our survey showed that 70 percent of organizations now consider at least 50 percent of their data mission critical.



Maxwell: One of the findings that I find most striking, since I have been following this for the past decade, is that our survey showed that 70 percent of organizations now consider at least 50 percent of their data mission critical.

That may sound ambiguous at first, because what is mission critical? But from the context of recoverability, that generally means data that has to be recovered in less than an hour and/or has to be recovered within an hour from a recovery-point perspective.

This means that if I have a database, I can’t go back 24 hours. The least amount of time that I can go back is within an hour of losing data, and in some cases, you can’t go back even a second. But it really gets into that window.

I remember in the days of the mainframe, you'd say, "Well, it will take all day to restore this data, because you have tens or hundreds of tapes to do it." Today, people expect everything to be back in minutes or seconds.

The other thing that was interesting from the survey is that one-third of IT departments were approached by their management in the past 12 months to increase the speed of the recovery time. That really dovetails with the 50 percent of data being mission critical. So there's pressure on the IT staff now to deliver better service-level agreements (SLAs) within their company with respect to recovering data.

Terms are synonymous

The other thing that's interesting is that data protection and the term backup are synonymous. It's funny. We always talk about backup, but we don't necessarily talk about recovery. Something that really stands out now from the survey is that recovery or recoverability has become a concern.

Case in point: 73 percent of respondents, or roughly three quarters, now consider recovering lost or corrupted data and restoring those mission critical applications their top data-protection concern. Only 4 percent consider the backup window the top concern. Ten years ago, all we talked about was backup windows and speed of backup. Now, only 4 percent considered backup itself, or the backup window, their top concern.

So 73 percent are concerned about the recovery window, only 4 percent about the backup window, and only 23 percent consider the ability to recover data independent of the application their top concerns.

Those trends really show that there is a need. The beauty is that, in my opinion, we can get those service levels tighter in virtualized environments easier than we can in physical environments.

Gardner: We seem to have these large shifts in the market, one around virtualization of servers and storage and the implications of first mixed, and then perhaps a majority, or vast majority, of virtualized environments.

A company has to look at which policies or which solutions to put in place to address the criticality of data, but then there is a cost associated with it.



The second shift is the heightened requirements around higher levels of mission-critical allocation or designation for the data and then the need for much greater speed in recovering it.

Let's unpack that a little bit. How do these fit together? What's the relationship between moving towards higher levels of virtualization and being able to perhaps deliver on these requirements, and maybe even doing it with some economic benefit?

Maxwell: You have to look at a concept that we call tiered recovery. That's driven by the importance now of replication in addition to traditional backup, and new technology such as continuous data protection and snapshots.

That gets to what I was mentioning earlier. Data protection and backup are synonymous, but it's a generic term. A company has to look at which policies or which solutions to put in place to address the criticality of data, but then there is a cost associated with it.

For example, it's really easy to say, "I'm going to mirror 100 percent of my data," or "I'm going to do synchronous replication of my data," but that would be very expensive from a cost perspective. In fact, it would probably be just about unattainable for most IT organizations.

Categorize your data

What you have to do is understand and categorize your data, and that's one of the focuses of Quest. We're introducing something this year called NetVault Extended Architecture (NetVault XA), which will allow you to protect your data based on policies, based on the importance of that data, and apply the correct solution, whether it's replication, continuous data protection, traditional backup, snapshots, or a combination.

You can't just do this blindly. You have got to understand what your data is. IT has to understand the business, and what's critical, and choose the right solution for it.

Gardner: It's interesting to me that if we're looking at data and trying to present policies on it, based on its importance, these policies are going to be probably dynamic and perhaps the requirements for the data will be shifting as well. This gets to that area I mentioned earlier about the culture around data, thinking about it differently, perhaps changing who is responsible and how.

So when we move to this level of meeting our requirements that are increasing, dealing in the virtualization arena, when we need to now think of data in perhaps that dynamic fluid sense of importance and then applying fit-for-purpose levels of support, backup, recoverability, and so forth, whose job is that? How does that impact how the culture of data has been and maybe give us some hints of what it should be?

Maxwell: You've pointed out something very interesting, especially in the area of virtualization, just as we have noticed over the seven years of our vRanger product, which invented the backup market for virtualized environments.

What we see now are the traditional people who were responsible for physical storage taking over the responsibility of virtual storage.



It used to be, and it still is in some cases, that the virtual environment was protected by the person, usually the sys admin, who was responsible for, in the case of VMware, the ESXi hypervisors. They may not necessarily have been aligned with the storage management team within IT that was responsible for all storage and more traditional backups.

What we see now are the traditional people who were responsible for physical storage taking over the responsibility of virtual storage. So it's not this thing that’s sitting over on the side and someone else does it. As I said earlier, virtualization is now such a large part of all the data, that now it's moving from being a niche to something that’s mainstream. Those people now are going to put more discipline on the virtual data, just as they did the physical.

Because of the mission criticality of data, they're going from being people who looked at data as just a bunch of volumes or arrays, logical unit numbers (LUNs), to "these are the applications and this is the service level associated with the applications."

When they go to set up policies, they are not just thinking of, "I'm backing up a server" or "I'm backing up disk arrays,", but rather, "I'm backing up Oracle Financials," "I'm backing up SAP," or "I'm backing up some in-house human resources application."

Adjust the policy

And the beauty of where Quest is going is, what if those rules change? Instead of having to remember all the different disk arrays and servers that are associated with that, say the Oracle Financials, I can go in and adjust the policy that's associated with all of that data that makes up Oracle Financials. I can fine-tune how I am going to protect that and the recoverability of the data.

Gardner: That to me brings up the issue about ease of use, administration, interfaces, making these tools something that can be used by more people or a different type of person. How do we look at this shift and think about extending that policy-driven and dynamic environment at the practical level of use?

Maxwell: It's interesting that you bring that up too, because we've had many discussions about that here at Quest. I don't want to use the term consumerization of IT, because it has been used almost too much, but what we're looking at is, with the increased amount of virtual data out there, which just adds to the whole pot of heterogeneous environments, whether you have Windows and Linux, MySQL, Oracle, or Exchange, it's impossible for these people who are responsible for the protection and the recoverability of data to have the skills needed to know each one of those apps.

We want to make it as easy to back up and recover a database as it is a flat file. The fine line that we walk is that we don't want to dumb the product down. We want to provide intuitive GUIs, a user experience that is a couple of clicks away to say, "Here is a database associated with the application. What point do I want to recover to?" and recover it.

If there needs to be some more hands-on or more complicated things that need to be done, we can expose features to maybe the database administrator (DBA), who can then use the product to do more complex recovery or something to that effect.

It's impossible for these people who are responsible for the protection and the recoverability of data to have the skills needed to know each one of those apps.



We've got to make it easy for this generalist, no matter what hypervisor -- Hyper-V or VMware, a combination of both, or even KVM or Xen -- which database, which operating system, or which platform.

Again, they're responsible for everything. They're setting the policies, and they shouldn't have to be qualified. They shouldn't have to be an Exchange administrator, an Oracle DBA, or a Linux systems administrator to be able to recover this data.

We're going to do that in a nice pretty package. Today, there are many people here at Quest who walk around with a tablet PC as much as they do with their laptop. So our next-generation user interface (UI) around NetVault XA is being designed with a tablet computing scenario, where you can swipe data, and your toolbar is on the left and right, as if you are holding it using your thumb -- that type of thing.

Gardner: So, it's more access when it comes to the endpoint, and as we move towards supporting more of these point applications and data types with automation and a policy-driven approach or an architecture, that also says to me that we are elevating this to the strategic level. We're looking at data protection as a concept holistically, not point by point, not source by source and so forth.

Again, it seems that we have these forces in the market, virtualization, the need for faster recovery times, dealing with larger sets of data. That’s pushing us, whether we want to or even are aware of it, towards this level of a holistic or strategic approach to data.

Let me just see if you have any examples, at this point, of companies that are doing this and what it's doing for them. How are they enjoying the benefits of elevating this to that strategic or architecture level?

Exabyte of data

Maxwell: We have one customer, and I won't mention their name, but they are one of the top five web properties in the world, and they have an exabyte of data. Their incremental backups are almost 500 petabytes, and they have an SLA with management that says 96 percent of backups will run well, because they have so much data that changes in a week’s time.

You can't miss a backup, because that gets to the recoverability of the application. They're using our NetVault product to back up that data, using both traditional methods and integrated snapshots. Snapshot was on the technology tier as far as having tiered recovery scenario. They used NetVault in conjunction with hardware snapshots, where there is no backup window. The backup to the application is, for all practical purposes, instantaneous.

Then, they use NetVault to manage and even take that data that’s on disk and eventually move it to tape. The snapshots allow them to do that very quickly for massive amounts of data. And by massive amounts of data, I'm talking 100 million files associated with one application. To put that back in place at any point in time very quickly with NetVault orchestrating that hardware snapshot technology, that’s pretty mind blowing.

Gardner: That does give us a sense of the scale and complexity and how it's being managed and delivered.

You mentioned how Quest is moving towards policy-driven approaches, improving UIs, and extending those UIs to mobile tier. Are there any other technology approaches that Quest is involved with that further explain how some of these challenges can be met? I'm very interested in agentless, and I'm also looking at how that automation gets extended across more of these environments.

We're envisioning customer environments where they're going to have multiple hypervisors, just as today people have multiple operating system databases.



Maxwell: There are two things I want to mention. Today, Quest protects VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V environments, and we'll be expanding the hypervisors that we're supporting over the next 12 months. Certainly, there are going to be a lot of changes around Windows Server 2012 or Hyper-V, where Microsoft has certainly made it a lot more robust.

There are a lot more things for us exploit, because we're envisioning customer environments where they're going to have multiple hypervisors, just as today people have multiple operating system databases.

We want to take care of that, mask some complexity and allow people to possibly have cross-hypervisor recoverability. So, in other words, we want to enable safe failover of a VMware ESXi system to Microsoft Hyper-V, or vice versa..

There's another thing that’s interesting and is a challenge for us and it's something that has challenged engineers here at Quest. This gets into the concepts of how you back up or protect data differently in virtual environments. Our vRanger product is the market leader with more than 40,000 customers, and it’s completely agentless.

As we have evolved the product over the past seven years, we've had three generations of the product and have exploited various APIs. But with vRanger, we've now gone to what is called a virtual appliance architecture. We have a vRanger service that performs backup and replication for one or hundreds of VMs that exist either on that one physical server or in a virtual cluster. So this VM can even protect VMs that exist on other hardware.

Scalability

The beauty of this is first the scalability. I have one software app that’s running that’s highly controllable. You can control what resources are replicating, protecting, and recovering all of my VMs. So that’s easy to manage, versus having to have an agent installed in every one of those VMs.

Two, there's no overhead. The VMs don’t even know, in most cases, that a backup is occurring. We use the services, in the case of VMware, of ESXi, that allows us to go out there, snapshot the virtual volumes called VMDKs, and back up or replicate the data.

Now, there is one thing that we do that’s different than some others. Some vendors do this and some don’t, and I think one of those things you have to look at when you choose a virtual backup or virtual data protection vendor is their technical prowess in this area. If you're backing up a VM that has an application such as Exchange or SharePoint, that’s a live application, and you want to be able to synchronize the hypervisor snapshot with the application that’s running.

There’s a service in Windows called Volume Shadow Copy Service, or VSS for short, and one of the unique things that Quest does with our backup software is synchronize the virtual snapshot of the virtual disks with the application of VSS, so we have a consistent point-in-time backup.

To communicate, we dynamically inject binaries into the VM that do the process and then remove themselves. So, for a very short time, there's something running in that VM, but then it's gone, and that allows us to have consistent backup.

One of the beauties of virtualization is that I can move data without the application being conscious of it happening.



That way, from that one image backup that we've done, I can restore an entire VM, individual files, or in the case of Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft SharePoint, I can recover a mailbox, an item, or a document out of SharePoint.

Gardner: So the more application-aware the solution is, it seems the more ease there is in having this granular level of restore choices. So that's fit for purpose, when it comes to deciding what level of backup and recovery and support for the data lifecycle is required.

This also will be able to fit into some larger trends around moving a data center to a software level or capability. Any thoughts of how what you're doing at Quest fits into this larger data-center trend. It seems to me that it’s at the leading or cutting edge?

Maxwell: One of the beauties of virtualization is that I can move data without the application being conscious of it happening. There's a utility, for example, within VMware called vMotion Storage that allows them to move data from A to B. It's a very easy way to migrate off of an older disk array to a new one, and you never have to bring the app down. It's all software driven within the hypervisor, and it's a lot of control. Basically it’s a seamless process.

What this opens up, though, is the ability for what we're looking at doing at Quest. If there's a means to move data around, why can't I then create an environment where I could do DR, whether it's within the data center for hardware redundancy or whether it's like what we do here at Quest.

Replicate data


W
e replicate data amongst various Quest facilities. Then, we can bring up an application that was running in location A in point B, on unlike hardware. It can be completely different storage, completely different servers, but since they're VMs, it doesn’t matter.

That kind of flexibility that virtualization brings is going to give every IT organization in the world the type of failover capabilities that used to only exist for the Global 1000, where they used to have to set up a hot site or had to have a data center. They would use very expensive proprietary hardware-based replication and things like that. So you had to have like arrays, like servers, and all that, just to have availability.

Now, with virtualization, it doesn’t matter, and of course, we have plenty of bandwidth, especially here in the United States. So it’s very economical, and this gets back to our survey that showed that for IT organizations, 73 percent were concerned about recovering data, and that’s not just recovering a file or a database.

Here in California, we're always talking about the big one. Well, when the big one happens, whole bunches of server racks may fall over. In the case of Quest, we want to be able to bring those applications up in an environment that's in a different part of the country, with no fault zones and that type of thing, so we can continue our business.

Gardner: We just saw a recent example of unintended or unexpected circumstances with the Mid-Atlantic states and some severe thunderstorms, which caused some significant disruption. So we always need to be thoughtful about the unexpected.

Now, we are talking about actually putting data protection products in the cloud, so you can back up the data locally within the cloud.



Another thing that occurred to me while you were discussing these sort of futuristic scenarios, which I am imagining aren’t that far off, is the impact that cloud computing another big trend in the market, is bringing to the table.

It seems to me that bringing some of the cloud models, cloud providers, service models into play with what you have described also expands what can be done across larger sets of organizations and maybe even subsets of groups within companies. Any thoughts briefly on where some of the cloud provider scenarios might take this?

Maxwell: It’s funny. Two years ago, when people talked about cloud and data protection, it was just considering the cloud as a target. I would back up the cloud or replicate the cloud. Now, we are talking about actually putting data protection products in the cloud, so you can back up the data locally within the cloud and then maybe even replicate it or back it up back to on-prem, which is kind of a novel concept if you think about it.

If you host something up in cloud, you can back it up locally up there and then actually keep a copy on-prem. Also, the cloud is where we're certainly looking at having generic support for being able to do failover into the cloud and working with various service providers where you can pre-provision, for example, VMs out there.

You're replicating data. You sense that you have had a failure, and all you have to do is, via software, bring up those VMs, pointing them at the disk replicas you put up there.

Different cloud providers

Then, there's the concept of what you do if a certain percentage of all your IT apps are hosted in cloud by different cloud providers. Do you want to be able to replicate the data between cloud vendors? Maybe you have data that's hosted at Amazon Web Services. You might want to replicate it to Microsoft Azure or vice versa or you might want to replicate it on-premise (on-prem).

So there's going to be a lot of neat hybrid options. The hybrid cloud is going to be a topic that we're going to talk about a lot now, where you have that mixture of on-prem, off-prem, hosted applications, etc., and we are preparing for that.

Gardner: I'm afraid we're about out of time. You've been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast discussion on the relationship between increasingly higher levels of virtualization and the need for new backup and recovery strategies.

We've seen how solving data complexity and availability in the age of high virtualization is making always attainable data the most powerful asset that an IT organization can deliver to its users.

I'd like to thank our guest. We've been joined by John Maxwell, Vice President of Product Management and Data Protection at Quest Software.

The cloud is where we're certainly looking at having generic support for being able to do failover into the cloud.



John, would you like to add anything else, maybe in terms of how organizations typically get started. This does seem like a complex undertaking. It has many different entry points. Are there some best practices you've seen in the market about how to go about this, or at least to get going?

Maxwell: The number one thing is to find a partner. At Quest, we have hundreds of technology partners that can help companies architect a strategy utilizing the Quest data protection solutions.

Again, choose a solution that hits all the key points. In the case of VMware, you can go to VMware’s site and look for VMware Ready-Certified Solutions. Same thing with Microsoft, whether it’s Windows Server 2008 or 2012 certified. Make sure that you are getting a solution that’s truly certified. A lot of products say they support virtual environments, but then they don’t have that real certification, and a result, they can’t do lot of the innovative things that I’ve been talking about .

So find a partner who can help, or, we at Quest can certainly help you find someone who can help you architect your environment and even implement the software for you, if you so choose. Then, choose a solution that is blessed by the appropriate vendor and has passed their certification process.

Gardner: I should also point out that VMworld is coming up next week. I expect that you'll probably have a big presence there, and a lot of the information that we have been talking about will be available in more detail through the VMworld venue or event.

Maxwell: Absolutely, Dana. Quest will have a massive presence at VMworld, both in San Francisco and Barcelona. We'll be demonstrating technologies we have today and also we will be making some major announcements and previewing some real exciting software at the show.

Gardner: Well, great. This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. I'd like to thank our audience for listening, and invite them to come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Quest Software.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on the relationship between increased virtualization and the need for data backup and recovery. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2012. All rights reserved.

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