The End Game for Cloud Data Protection Appliances is Recovery

The phrase “Cloud Data Protection Appliance” is included in the name of DCIG’s forthcoming Buyer’s Guide but the end game of each appliance covered in that Guide is squarely on recovery. While successful recoveries have theoretically always been the objective of backup appliances, vendors too often only paid lip service to that ideal as most of their new product features centered on providing better means for doing backups.  Recent technology advancements have flipped this premise on its head.
cloud recovery
Multiple reasons exist as to why these appliances can focus more fully on this end game of recovery though five key ones have emerged in the last few years that have enabled it. These include:

  1. The low price point of using disk as a backup target (as opposed to tape)
  2. The general availability of private and public cloud providers
  3. The use of deduplication to optimize storage capacity
  4. The widespread availability of snapshot technologies on hypervisors, operating systems, and storage arrays
  5. The widespread enterprise adoption of hypervisors like VMware ESX, and Microsoft Hyper-V as well as the growing adoption of container technologies such as Docker and Kubernetes,

While there are other contributing technologies, these five more so than the others give these appliances new freedom to deliver on backup’s original promise: successful recoveries. By way of example:

  • The backup appliance is used for local application recoveries. Over 80 percent of the appliances that DCIG evaluated now support the instant recovery of an application on a virtual machine on the appliance. This frees enterprises to start the recovery of the application on the appliance itself before moving the application to its primary host. Enterprises can even opt to recover and run the application on the appliance for an extended time for test and development or to simply host the application until the production physical machine on which the application resides recovers.
  • Application conversions and migrations. All these appliances support the backup of virtual machines and their recovery as a virtual machine, but fully 88 percent of the software on these appliances support the backup of a physical machine and its recovery to a virtual machine. This feature gives enterprises access to a tool that can use to migrate applications from physical to virtual machines as a matter of course or in the event of disasters. Further, 77 percent of them support recovery of virtual machines to physical machines. While that may seem counter intuitive, not every application runs well on virtual machines or may need functionality only found when running on a physical machine.
  • Location of backup data. By storing data in the cloud (even if only using it as a cloud target,) enterprises know where their backup data is located. This is not trivial. Too many enterprises do not even know exactly what physical gear they have in their data center, much less where their data is located. While many enterprises still need to concern themselves with various international regulations governing the data’s physical location when storing data in the cloud, at least they know with which cloud provider they stored the data and how to access it. As anyone who uses or has used tape may recall, tracking down, lost tapes, misplaced tapes or even existing tapes can quickly become like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Even using disk is not without its challenges. Many enterprises may have to use multiple disk targets to store their backup data and trying to identify exactly which disk device holds what data may not be as simple as it sounds.
  • Recovering in the cloud. This end game of recovering in the cloud, whether it is recovering a single file, a single application, or an entire data center, may appeal to enterprises more so than any other option on these appliances. The ability to virtually create and have access to a secondary site from which they can recover data or even perform a disaster recovery and run one or more applications removes a dark cloud of unspoken worry that hangs over many enterprises today. The fact that they can use that recovery in the cloud as a stepping stone to potentially hosting applications or their entire data center in the cloud is an added benefit.

Enterprises should be very clear as to what opportunities that today’s cloud data protection appliances offer them. Near term they provide them a means to easily connect to one or more cloud providers, get their backup data offsite, and even recover their data or applications in the cloud. But the long term ramifications of using these appliances to store data in the cloud are much more significant. They represent the bridge to recovering and even potentially hosting more of their applications and data with one or more cloud providers. Organizations should therefore give this end game of recovery specific attention both when they choose a cloud data protection appliance and the cloud provider(s) to which the appliance connects.
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