Server Virtualization May Turn Out to be the Best Thing That Ever Happened to DPRM Software

The move from tape to disk as a primary backup target had raised serious questions about what the future held for data protection and recovery management (DPRM) software. The argument was that with disk replacing tape in the backup process, why would anyone need DPRM software? Turns out, the reasons for companies continuing to deploy DPRM software are even more compelling than before.

DPRM software got its start primarily among large enterprise companies that used tape as a backup target. These environments used DPRM software to identify what backup jobs had failed, monitor the status of tape drives or provide alerts as to what backup jobs were taking too long to complete.

But with disk taking over as the primary backup target, it made the tasks that DPRM routinely performed obsolete. As such, the future of DPRM software looked dubious at best. But it turns out disk-based backup coupled with the advent of server virtualization may have been the best thing to ever happen to DPRM software.

As disk solved the aforementioned issues around tape-based backup, server virtualization created new sets of backup issues that are not solved by simply inserting disk into the backup equation.

For instance, as organizations put more virtual machines (VMs) on a single physical machine, it becomes more difficult to predict how each VM’s backup workloads impact that physical server. Or as companies add more VMs or move them around, they may not be configured for backup as they are created or moved. This opens up entirely new ways to leverage DPRM software.

One prime example is using DPRM software to monitor and manage data growth. Everyone knows data growth is occurring exponentially within organizations and that to manage it they have to use deduplication in some context. But what type of deduplication (host, media server or target-based) is best for each application? Or, in some cases, where is deduplication not really helping at all? DPRM software can help organizations make those determinations.

Yet to view data growth strictly in the context of daily, weekly and monthly growth is too limiting. EMC is finding that among its Data Protection Advisor users that they are specifically finding value in using Data Protection Advisor to monitor and track sudden spikes or decreases in backup volume. One such example is if a backup job regularly backs up 10 GB a day and then it suddenly only backs up 100 KBs of data.

Technically the backup job succeeded and the features natively found in backup software would report as such. But these are exactly the types of anomalies that Data Protection Advisor can be configured to detect and report on in order to help organizations meet specific regulatory or even internal security mandates. While there may be nothing wrong, at least it alerts the administrator that they should check to see what prompted such a change as it may reflect a deeper issue not related to backup at all.

Another great way that DPRM software is being used is to centralize and streamline the monitoring, analysis, alerting and reporting across different silos of data protection. It was on that topic that I had a conversation with a Forrester Research analyst a few months ago at EMC World. She shared with me that in Forrester’s research it finds that almost every enterprise has at least three enterprise backup software solutions.

That certainly is consistent with my own experience. When I used to work at First Data Corporation it tried numerous times to standardize on one data protection platform. But due to the amount of work required to standardize it and the lack of evidence as to how it would financially benefit First Data, it never happened.

So when it comes to monitoring backup jobs across all of these data protection platforms and centrally monitoring data growth across these environments, that cannot occur without DPRM software.

Further, as organizations consolidate their environments using server virtualization, DPRM software like Data Protection Advisor may even help to facilitate the consolidation of backup software platforms. It can provide stats such as which of the backup software platforms is most widely deployed and which is achieving the best deduplication ratios so organizations can even look to consolidate this part of their infrastructure.

A third and final way DPRM software is remaining pertinent is by helping organizations take virtualization to the next level. Used in this context it goes well beyond just monitoring and managing data growth in virtualized environments. It is used to do predictive analysis so that organizations can better understand what is going on their virtualized environment and they use that information to better plan and forecast future growth in their backup environment.

By way of example, if an organization is looking to deploy a new VM with a SQL Server database on it, it can use Data Protection Advisor to look at how other SQL Server VMs in its environment are backed up, what sort of deduplication ratios they are achieving and how much backup storage capacity they are consuming. Then using that information, they can forecast more precisely how the new VM will impact their environment and budget accordingly.

Tape may be dying as a backup target but DPRM software does not appear destined to share its fate. If anything, the advent of disk-based backup and server virtualization is breathing new life into DPRM software. By using it in a more business oriented role to monitor data growth, consolidate backup silos and forecast future growth and budget impacts, DRPM software is poised to be one of the big benefactors of server virtualization and disk-based backup.

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