Companies of all sizes pay more attention to their backup and recovery infrastructure than perhaps ever before. While they still rightfully prioritize their production infrastructure over their backup one, companies seem to recognize and understand that can use backups as more than just insurance policies to recover their production data. This is resulting in cutting edge innovations such as analytics, microservices, and scalable storage finding their way into backup solutions in general and backup appliances specifically.
One of the challenges associated with innovative technologies finding their way into data protection solutions stems from cost. Companies tend to see backup as a cost of doing business and less of an investment in the company’s future. This viewpoint results in them only spending what they must on backup.
Since new technologies tend to be more costly, this tends to inhibit the introduction and adoption of new technologies on the backup appliances. More than one backup provider has told me in briefings with me they would gladly introduce more innovative technologies into their backup solutions. There simply has not been the budget-backed demand for them.
For these reasons, backup may never become a maelstrom of innovation. Nevertheless, changes in how companies want to manage and use their backup infrastructure is driving the introduction of some of the latest and greatest technologies into backup solutions. Here are three that DCIG has observed finding their way onto backup appliances.
- Analytics. Backup is ripe for picking when it comes to applying analytics such as artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to the backup process. Companies keep multiple copies of data in a single data store for multiple years. This would lead one to believe there is more value than just data recovery that companies can glean from their backup data repositories … if they can just figure out what that value prop is.
As it turns out, cybercriminals might be the ones who do the most to help companies derive more value from their backup data stores. As cybercriminals get more sophisticated in their malware attacks, companies are turning to backups to help them detect the presence of malware in their production environment by analyzing backup data.
Asigra incorporates the use of cybersecurity software in its Cloud Backup software. This software can analyze data as it is backed up or recovered for the presence of malware. Unitrends also uses analytics to detect for the presence of ransomware in backups. It compares changes between backups and looks for unusual or unexpected activity in data between backups.
- Microservices. Using microservices sto accelerate application development has been one of the hottest topics in technology for the last few years. Here again, microservices have been slow to gain a foothold in data protection though StorageCraft on its OneXafe solution represents one of the first to find a practical application for microservices.
StorageCraft gives companies multiple ways to use their OneXafe appliance. If they use SSDs in its all-flash 5410 model, companies can use it for production file services. But OneXafe was originally designed for use as a secondary storage appliance in the form of a deduplication backup target.
The underlying software platform upon which StorageCraft built OneXafe lends itself well to running data protection microservices in Docker containers. Companies may enable this data protection service on the OneXafe platform at any time. Using OneXafe’s architecture, its ShadowXafe data protection service has access to all the storage across all the nodes in a OneXafe deployment without the design and storage limitations inherent in competing products.
- Scalable storage. Scalable storage represents the trend being most rapidly adopted by data protection solutions. Companies struggle to forecast data growth in their production environment. Having to manage the corresponding storage growth in their backup environment only adds to their headaches.
More backup appliances than ever give companies the flexibility they need to easily scale their storage without the corresponding headaches that they have faced in the past. Some examples of this innovation include:
- Asigra has partnered with iXsystems to deliver the Asigra TrueNAS appliance that scales to over 10PB.
- StorageCraft merged with ExaBlox and now offers its OneXafe appliance which likewise can scale up to over a petabyte in a single logical configuration.
- Others like HYCU have partnered with Nutanix to deliver this scalable storage functionality.
Very few IT professionals choose IT out of a desire to merely “feed the beast.” Most want to innovate and adopt new and exciting technologies that create new value for their organizations.Today, the cybersecurity threats they face from outside their organization and the internal needs to simplify the management of their data protection environment have created an opportunity for savvy IT professionals to add value by adopting backup appliances that leverage analytics, microservices, and scalable storage.