Forward thinking backup: why data protection matters

Transformative disruption to new converged & hyperconverged information-centric operations demands an equally converged approach to data protection

The core truth we come back to time and time again when it comes to our use of data, software applications and information services is that we care about our data and its value to us, that’s why we create it in the first instance.

Because of this core truism, firms in every vertical ultimately start to experience anxiety over the need to protect their data.

Enterprise organisations today see their IT operations departments, line of business managers and individual users all becoming increasingly aware of the threats that can negatively impact and affect data integrity.

Data integrity risk factors

From management software crashes, malware attacks, hard disk failures, physical theft and force majeure acts of god, we realise that our data has a fragility that needs protecting.

Data has a life and it very often has a lifespan, because of this we need to look after it. Adopting a formalised and proactive approach to backup means building data protection intelligence into every firm’s IT stack as a matter of base-level architectural engineering.

Firms in every vertical are undergoing positively disruptive changes that drive transformation to a new level of digital business. The challenge these same firms have is that when they modernise manufacturing, production processes and/or service delivery, they must also modernise their approach to information protection.

The bottom line is… new converged IT infrastructure and hyperconverged systems demand an equally converged approach to data protection.

Converged IT demands converged data protection

But data protection is complex. Firms operating datacentre operations large or small are faced with the challenge of seeing clearly though a wide and potentially blinding spectrum of backup infrastructures.

Approaches to backup include traditional solutions such as ‘build-your-own’ tactics or the use of pre-installed software. The problem with these methods is that although they tend to save money upfront at the time of initial purchase, over the long term they require more time and budget due to ongoing maintenance.

Data protection is complex. Firms operating datacentre operations large or small are faced with the challenge of seeing clearly though a wide and potentially blinding spectrum of backup infrastructures.

The unified & converged road ahead

On the unified technology road ahead, we see that hardware and software are specifically engineered to complement each other. This is a place where backup exists as a native elemental component and practice inside the converged computing platform and appliances that we place our trust in. This is an environment where complexity is driven out by the use of purpose-built backup appliances (PBBAs), which become critical to companies’ business continuity and recovery practices.

A clear business advantage

From deeply technical roots here, a clear business message arises i.e. core data protection in a converged infrastructure world leads us to a state where server virtualisation has a transformative effect on IT operations.

Functional aspects of data protection such as storage management and information governance do not happen on their own just because a firm has a departmental- or divisional-level server, or even a cloud datacentre operation.

A converged IT operations team leverages integrated software, servers and storage to reap the rewards that come from knowing when to backup through a management intelligence layer. The business that this IT operations team serves also benefits from orchestrated backup, forward-thinking backup, capacity planning and overall converged backup.

As content grows (which it inevitably does towards petabytes of data) and data responsibilities grow… the need to engineer towards proactive protection of this kind modernisation becomes key.

As content grows and data responsibilities grow… the need to engineer towards proactive protection of this kind modernisation becomes key.

Where data operations were once fragmented, complex and contorted inside disconnected point solutions, they now become fast to deploy, easy to manage and above all integrated.

The future-focused forward-thinking backup driven organisation is able to protect all of its physical machines, virtual machines, databases, applications, cloud workloads and storage repositories in one single integrated solution.

Scalability factors

A key part of our rationale for moving to new converged IT operations is scalability. The ability to scale both upwards and downwards to adapt to changing market conditions is key to harnessing the inherent flexibility that comes from cloud computing and our contemporary approach to software-defined IT infrastructures.

Scaling data protection for large-scale heterogeneous computing environments that can work with the future virtual and software-defined environments of tomorrow is complex, so how do we do it?

Key facilitating technologies here should gravitate towards purpose-built backup appliances (PBBAs) for business continuity. PBBAs operate with a naturally faster operation time to execute backups in a smaller number of hours – but why does this produce better business continuity?

The reason is that any time a backup solution runs for a long time, especially outside a typical six to eight-hour backup window, production applications are more likely to suffer poor performance.

When the business enjoys increased performance due to custom-engineered backups that do not negatively impact upon business performance, a higher level of business continuity is attained.

A logical business-technology algorithm

A direct consequence of improved business continuity is improved scalability. A direct consequence of improved scalable business continuity inside converged unified IT infrastructure platforms is improved business agility… and this leads finally onwards to improved profitability potential, every time.

Essentially then, we see this new level of business continuity and agility stemming from the arrival of the hyperconverged appliance and the converged-systems architecture.

“Arguably, nothing in the last decade has been more transformative to how IT is delivered than server virtualisation,” argues Principal Analyst at ESG Jason Buffington.

“The industry has evolved from simply installing hypervisors on traditional servers, through deploying blades and chassis, and most recently, to leveraging what many consider the epitomes of the IT infrastructure building block: the hyperconverged appliance and the converged-systems rack architecture,” he added.

When combined and deployed intelligently, ability to ‘scale gracefully’ to thousands of petabytes of data across hundreds and thousands of devices gives businesses the chance to scale like never before.

Data protection modernisation as part of a wider progression

Advanced hardware and software deployment requires advanced backup protection and advanced hardware integration prowess if predictable performance levels are to be achieved. But these advancements need to be delivered as part of a wider strategic IT infrastructure progression.

As ESG’s Buffington has said, proactive protection modernisation means that selecting and modernising a firm’s data protection tools is done within the scope of the modernisation process also supporting a broader IT strategy. Further, this modernisation should be enacted as part of modernising the total production infrastructure.

“Being proactive enables vAdmins, backup specialists and IT architects to communicate and collaborate on what SLAs are required and what kinds of recovery agility are needed by the business units. Once those specifications are identified, a plan is developed and executed, which includes deploying data protection solution(s) as part of the virtualisation infrastructure deployment,” said Buffington.

The ESG analysts warns against reactive protection modernisation, where an organisation attempts to use its mediocre outdated backup solution for a highly virtualised environment, causing significant I/O impact among the VMs and dissatisfaction among the vAdmins, IT architects and end-users.

“IT is then forced to deal with that issue via a hastily upgraded backup implementation, which can affect other data protection scenarios until the entire environment is upgraded to a new solution,” said Buffington



Improving data protection continues to be one of the most commonly cited IT spending priorities among IT decision makers, year after year—it is a priority often spurred by the deployment of new IT workloads that demand modern protection and recovery approaches.

We know now that one of the key drivers for a ‘new’ level of data protection is server virtualisation – and virtualisation (storage, compute, and networking) is often best achieved through converged or hyperconverged platforms because of their pre-integration, ease and consistency of deployment, and their ability to increase the VM density, resulting in more efficiency and agility.

Virtualisation’s transformative impact on IT cannot be overstated, this is surely another core truism that underpins this discussion.

No plug-and-play panacea

But virtualised converged IT operations with proactive next-generation data protection and backup intelligence is not a plug-and-play panacea. It doesn’t ‘just work’ on its own.

The combination of technologies presented here are extremely powerful. Badly planned and/or poorly implemented they can create unreliability, instability and uncertainty i.e. precisely the opposite of what they are designed to eradicate.

Strategic proactive planning is required to bring newly modernised mechanisms for data protection online as part of a wider strategy for both a modernised technology stack across the business and, in parallel, a modernised production infrastructure for any firm’s goods and services.


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