Seven Basic Questions to Screen Cloud Storage Offerings

Using cloud storage often represents the first way that most companies adopt the cloud. They leverage cloud storage to archive their data, as a backup target, share files, or for long term data retention. These approaches offer a low risk means for companies to get started in the cloud. However, with more cloud storage offerings available than ever, companies need to ask and answer more pointed questions to screen them.

50+ Cloud Storage Offerings

As recently as a few years ago, one could count on one hand the number of cloud storage offerings. Even now, companies may find themselves hard pressed to name more than five or six of them.

The truth of the matter is companies have more than 50 cloud storage offerings from which to choose. These offerings come from general purpose cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google to specialized providers such as Degoo, hubiCJottacloud and Wasabi.








The challenge companies now face is, “How do I screen these cloud storage offerings to make the right choice for me?” Making the best selection from these multiple cloud storage offerings starts by first asking and answering basic questions about your requirements.

Seven Basic Questions

Seven basic questions you should ask and answer to screen these offerings include:

  1. What type or types of data will you store in their cloud? If you only have one type of data (backups, files, or photos) to store in the cloud, a specialized cloud storage provider may best meet your needs. If you have multiple types of data (archival, backups, block, file, and/or object) to store in the cloud, a general-purpose cloud storage provider may better fit your requirements.
  2. How much data will you store in the cloud? Storing a few GBs or even a few hundred GBs of data in the cloud may not incur significant cloud storage costs. When storing hundreds of terabytes or petabytes of storage in the cloud, a cloud offering with multiple tiers of storage and pricing may be to your advantage.
  3. How much time do you have to move the data to the cloud? Moving a few GBs of data to the cloud may not take very long. Moving terabytes of data (or more) may take days, weeks or even months. In these circumstances, look for cloud providers that offer tools to ingest data at your site that they can securely truck back to their site.
  4. How much time do you have to manage the cloud? No one likes to think about managing data in the cloud. Cloud providers count on this inaction as this is when cloud storage costs add up. If you have no plans to optimize data placement or the data management costs outweigh the benefits, identify a cloud storage provider that either does this work for you or makes its storage so simple to use you do not have to manage it.
  5. How often will you retrieve data from the cloud and how much will you retrieve? If you expect to retrieve a lot of data from the cloud, identify if the cloud provider charges egress (data exit) fees and how much it charges.
  6. What type of performance do you need? Storing data on lower cost, lower tiers of storage may sound great until you need that data. If waiting multiple days to retrieve it could impact your business, keep your data on the higher performing storage tiers.
  7. What type of availability do you need? Check with your cloud storage provider to verify what uptime guarantees it provides for the region where your data resides.

A Good Base Line

There are many more questions that companies can and should ask to select the right cloud storage offering for them. However, these seven basic questions should provide the base line set of information companies need to screen any cloud storage offering.

If your company needs help in doing a competitive assessment of cloud storage providers, DCIG can help. You can contact DCIG by filling out this form on DCIG’s website or emailing us.

The Journey to the Cloud Begins by Speaking the Same Cloud Language

Every company wants to make the right cloud decision for their business. As a result, more companies than ever ask their vendors to describe the cloud capabilities of their products. However, as you ask your vendors cloud questions, verify that you both use the same cloud language. You may find that how you and your vendors define the cloud differ significantly which can quickly result in communication breakdowns.

Technology providers feel intense pressure to remain relevant in a rapidly changing space. As more companies adopt the cloud, they want to make sure they are part of the conversation. As such, one should have no problem identifying products that support the cloud. However, some vendors take more liberties than other in how they apply the term cloud to describing their products’ features.

The Language of Cloud

For better or worse, the term “cloud” can mean almost anything. A simple definition for the cloud implies the ability to access needed resources over a computer network. Hence, any product that claims “cloud support” means it can simply access resources over a computer network, regardless of where they reside.

Pictures of blue skies and fluffy clouds that often accompany vendor descriptions of “cloud support” for their products do not help clarify the situation. These pictures can lead one to assume that a product provides more robust cloud support than it truly delivers.

By way of example, almost every enterprise backup product claims support for the cloud. However, the breadth and depth of cloud support that each one offers varies widely. To assess the true scope of each one’s cloud support, one first needs to understand the language they use to describe the cloud.

For instance, if you plan to use the cloud for long-term backup retention, most enterprise backup products connect to a cloud. The key here is be very clear in what they mean by “connectivity to the cloud”.  Key questions you should ask include:

  • Does the product’s cloud support include connectivity to any large general-purpose cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, or Google?
  • Does the product need to work with all three of these cloud providers?
  • Does it support include any S3 compliant public cloud?
  • Does the product support more cost-effective public cloud options such as Wasabi?
  • Does its cloud support refer to a purpose-built cloud for backup and DR such as Unitrends offers?

Getting questions like these answered will provide you the insight you need to determine if the cloud capabilities of their products matches your requirements. That understand can only occur if you are both first speak the same language.

Multi-cloud can be Just as Cloudy

As companies connect to the cloud, many find they want the option to connect to multiple different clouds. This option gives them more power to negotiate prices as well as flexibility to deploy resources where they run best. But here again, one needs to drill down on exactly how a product delivers on its multi-cloud support.

Key questions that you must ask when evaluating a product’s multi-cloud capabilities include:

  1. To which public clouds can the product connect, if any?
  2. To which private clouds can it connect, if any?
  3. Can it connect and use multiple clouds simultaneously?
  4. Can it connect and use public and private clouds at the same time?
  5. Does it offer any features beyond just connectivity to manage the cloud’s features?

The Journey to the Cloud Begins by Speaking the Same Cloud Language

Companies today more so than ever want to start their journey to the cloud. To begin that journey, you must first speak the same language. Start by defining what the cloud means to you, or what you think it means to you.

This may even require you to engage some of your preferred vendors or partners to help you draft that definition. Regardless of how you arrive at your definition of the cloud, the sooner you do, the sooner you can ask the right questions, understand the answers given to you, and get the clarity you need to choose products that support the cloud in the way that you expect.

Four Ways to Achieve Quick Wins in the Cloud

More companies than ever want to use the cloud as part of their overall IT strategy. To do so, they often look to achieve some quick wins in the cloud to demonstrate its value. Achieving these quick wins also serves to give them some practical hands on experience in the cloud. Incorporating the cloud into your backup and disaster recovery (DR) processes may serve as the best way to get these wins.

Any company hoping to get some quick wins in the cloud should first define what a “win” looks like. For the purposes of this blog entry, a win consists of:

  • Fast, easy deployments of cloud resources
  • Minimal IT staff involvement
  • Improved application processes or workflows
  • The same or lower costs

Here are four ways for companies to achieve the quick wins in the cloud through their backup and DR processes:

#1 – Take a Non-disruptive Approach

When possible, leverage your company’s existing backup infrastructure to store copies of data in the cloud. All enterprise backup products such as backup software and deduplication backup appliances, save one or two, interface with public clouds. These products can store backup data in the cloud without disrupting your existing environment.

Using these products, companies can get exposure to the public cloud’s core compute and storage services. These are the cloud services companies are most apt to use initially and represent the most mature of the public cloud offerings.

#2 – Deduplicate Backup Data Whenever Possible

Public cloud providers charge monthly for every GB of data that companies store in their respective clouds. The more data that your company stores in the cloud, the higher these charges become.

Deduplicating data reduces the amount of data that your company stores in the cloud. In so doing, it also helps to control and reduce your company’s monthly cloud storage costs.

#3 – Tier Your Backup Data

Many public cloud storage providers offer multiple tiers of storage. The default storage tier they offer does not, however, represent their most cost-effective option. This is designed for data that needs high levels of availability and moderate levels of performance.

Backup data tends to only need these features for the first 24 – 72 hours after it is backed up. After that, companies can often move it to lower cost tiers of cloud storage. Note that these lower cost tiers of storage come with decreasing levels of availability and performance. While many backups (over 99%) fall into this category, check to see if any application recoveries occurred that required data over three days old before moving it to lower tiers of storage.

#4 – Actively Manage Your Cloud Backup Environment

Applications and data residing in the cloud differ from your production environment in one important way. Every GB of data consumed and every hour that an application runs incur costs. This differs from on-premises environments where all existing hardware represents a sunk cost. As such, there is less incentive to actively manage existing hardware resources since any resources recouped only represent a “soft” savings.

This does not apply in the cloud. Proactively managing and conserving cloud resources translate into real savings. To realize these savings, companies need to look to products such as Quest Foglight. It helps them track where their backup data resides in the cloud and identify the application processes they have running. This, in turn, helps them manage and control their cloud costs.

Companies rightfully want to adopt the cloud for the many benefits that it offers and, ideally, achieve a quick win in the process. Storing backup data in the cloud and moving DR processes to the cloud provides the quick win in the cloud that many companies initially seek. As they do so, they should also ensure they put the appropriate processes and software in place to manage and control their usage of cloud resources.

Five Reasons Why Organizations Choose DCIG to Create Competitive Intelligence Reports

At a high level, anyone can prepare a competitive intelligence report. All one needs is an Excel spreadsheet, a web browser, access to the Internet, a list of your competitors, and a list of product features. Then, boom, just like that, you have a report. However, companies that engage DCIG to create Competitive Intelligence Reports want much more that an Excel spreadsheet with a list of features and check marks in order to truly empower their sales staff and partners.

5 Reasons Companies Choose DCIG for Competitive Intelligence Reports

These companies want professional reports that they can use for equipping and educating their internal sales staff and resellers. They also use reports to educate their current and prospective clients. In talking with our clients about why they choose DCIG to create these reports, here are five reasons they commonly cite:

#1 – Validate their assumptions and findings about their competitors’ products’ features.

Many clients who engage DCIG to create competitive intelligence reports have already done some and, in some cases, a lot of research into their competitors’ products and the features they offer. However, they find it helpful to have an analyst firm double check and validate their research.

#2 – DCIG routinely covers and communicates with their competitors. 

DCIG has nearly 20 years of experience in covering enterprise technology products and communicating with them. This has resulted in DCIG having contacts with hundreds of technology companies and thousands of professionals within these companies. Further, DCIG has information about thousands of products and their features in DCIG’s product database. We often have the information that our clients need to validate their research or can quickly identify someone who can help get the competitive information you seek.

#3 – Companies want to speak with DCIG.

DCIG’s analysis and reports are distributed to and read by thousands of people every month through DCIG’s newsletter and on DCIG’s website. Further, DCIG’s content is often picked up by third party websites such as Storage Newsletter. As a result, companies often want to speak to DCIG and brief us on their products in anticipation of this type of coverage. This ensures that DCIG has the latest information about the products from multiple companies.

#4 – Want objective, credible, third party content.

Your customers, partners and even your own sales force will find the presentation of competitive information by an analyst firm more objective and credible than if you present it. This makes it more likely that they read it,  understand it, and use it in the field.

#5 – DCIG translates technology into understandable business benefits.

This perhaps reflects the primary reason companies engage with DCIG to produce Competitive Intelligence Reports. An Excel spreadsheet with a list of features and check marks is only the starting point for DCIG as it builds out its Competitive Intelligence Reports – not its end game. Every DCIG Competitive Intelligence Report explains why certain features matter and under what circumstances.

These reports also include questions that companies can ask their prospective customers to determine if these features matter to them. These helps both customers and the companies selling the products more quickly get to the two best answers, “Yes, I want to buy it,” or, “No, I do not.” This saves all parties involved time, money, and energy to get to the best answer.

Present Competitive Intelligence from an Objective Third Party

Companies rightfully conclude that they can perform their own competitive intelligence. They may know, perhaps better than an analyst firm, who their competitors are, and what features they offer that result in them winning specific deals. However, safely and objectively presenting that same information in a professional format for your customers, partners, and sales force can use often require more time than your existing team has.

This is where DCIG can help and has helped other organizations. If this is where your competitive intelligence team, product manager, marketing team, or internal product evaluation team recognizes a need, let us know!  You can contact DCIG by filling out this form on DCIG’s website or emailing us.

Best of Show at Nutanix .NEXT

Every time DCIG attends a conference, we attempt to meet with as many exhibitors as possible to get an overview of their solutions and the key business challenges they solve. We then identify three that best address these challenges. In attending the Nutanix .NEXT event last week in Anaheim, CA, DCIG awarded these three products as Best of Show.

Best of Show Award Winner #1: Nutanix Mine

Nutanix Mine was one of the announcements made during the opening keynote at the Nutanix .NEXT conference that prompted spontaneous applause from the audience in attendance. That applause came for good reason.

Source: Nutanix

Companies who standardize on Nutanix ideally do not really want to introduce another HCI platform to host their data protection platform. Using Nutanix Mine, companies get all the HCI benefits that Nutanix offers that companies can then use to host the data protection solution of their choice.

Data protection providers such as HYCU, Commvault, Unitrends, and Veritas all announced their intentions to use Nutanix Mine as an option to host their data protection software. Further, other data protection providers in attendance at Nutanix .NEXT privately shared with DCIG that they plan to adopt Mine as a platform hosting option at some point in the future, one even going so far as to say it views Mine as a platform it must adopt.

Best of Show Award Winner #2: Lenovo TruScale

Lenovo TruScale literally introduces enterprises to utility data center computing. Lenovo bills TruScale clients a monthly management fee plus a utilization charge. It bases this charge on the power consumed by the Lenovo-managed IT infrastructure.

Source: Lenovo

This power consumption-based approach is especially appealing to enterprises and service providers for which one or more of the following holds true:

  • Data center workloads tie directly to revenue.
  • Want IT to focus on enabling digital transformation, not infrastructure management.
  • Need to retain possession or secure control of their data.

TruScale does not require companies to install any extra software. TrueScale gets its power utilization data from the management processor already embedded in Lenovo servers. It then passes this power consumption data to the Lenovo operations center(s) along with alerts and other sensor data.

Lenovo uses the data to trigger support interventions and to provide near real-time usage data to customers via a portal. The portal graphically presents performance versus key metrics including actual vs budget.  Lenovo’s approach to utility data center computing provide a distinctive and easy means this technology while simultaneously simplifying billing. (Note: DCIG will be publishing another blog entry very shortly that more thoroughly examines Lenovo TruScale.)

Best of Show Award Winner #3: HYCU 4.0

I have known about HYCU for a while so its tight integration with Nutanix AHV is not the motivation for DCIG awarding HYCU Best of Show. Rather, the testimony that a staff member from Nutanix’s internal IT department shared about Nutanix’s own experience running HYCU to protect its data center caught my attention.

Source: HYCU

Nutanix internally deployed HYCU in three data centers across the United Stated and in its small data centers in its global offices. HYCU protects over 3,500 VMs that includes both Linux and Windows VMs with no agents installed. It provides both file and VM level restores and uses Active Directory for its RBAC (role-based access control).

Nutanix evaluated data protection products from other data protection providers. Nutanix chose HYCU over all of them. Pretty strong testimonial and endorsement of HYCU by Nutanix when almost other data protection provider would give their eye teeth to be Nutanix’s internal go-to provider of backup software.

HYCU Continues Its March Towards Becoming the Default Nutanix Backup Solution

Any time a new operating system platform comes to market, one backup solution tends to lead in providing a robust set of data protection features that companies can quickly, easily, and economically deploy. It happened with Unix. It happened with Windows and VMware. Now it is happening again with the Nutanix Acropolis operating system (AOS) as HYCU continues to make significant product enhancements in its march to become the default backup solution for Nutanix-centric environments.

I greatly respect any emerging technology provider that can succeed at any level in the hyper-competitive enterprise space. To compete and win in the enterprise market, it must execute simultaneously on multiple levels. Minimally, it must have solid technology, a compelling message, and competent engineering, marketing, management, sales, and support teams to back the product up. Nutanix delivers on all these fronts.

However, companies can sometimes overlook the value of the partner community that must simultaneously develop when a new platform such as Nutanix AOS comes to market. If companies such as HYCU, Intel, Microsoft, SAP and others did not commit resources to form technology alliances with Nutanix, it would impede Nutanix’s ability to succeed in the market place.

Of these alliances, Nutanix’s alliance with HYCU merits attention. While Nutanix does have technology alliances with other backup providers, HYCU is the only one of these providers that has largely hitched its wagon to the Nutanix train. As a result, as Nutanix goes, so largely goes HYCU.

Given that Nutanix continues to rock the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) market space, this bodes well for HYCU – assuming HYCU matches Nutanix’s pace of innovation step-for-step. Based upon the announcement that HYCU made at this week’s Nutanix .NEXT conference in Anaheim, CA, it is clear that HYCU fully understands the opportunities in front of it and capitalizes on them in its latest 4.0 release. Consider:

  • HYCU supports and integrates with Nutanix Mine beginning in the second half of 2019. Emerging data protection providers such as Cohesity and Rubrik have (rightfully) made a lot of noise about using HCI platforms (and especially theirs) for data protection use cases. In the face of this noise, HYCU, with its HYCU-X announcement in late 2018, grasped that it could use Nutanix to meet this use case. The question was, “Did Nutanix want to position AOS as a platform for data protection software and secondary enterprise workloads?

The short answer is Yes. The Nutanix Mine May 8 announcement makes it clear that Nutanix has no intention of conceding the HCI platform space to competitors that focus primarily on data protection. Further, Nutanix’s technology alliance with HYCU immediately pays dividends. Companies can select backup software that is fully integrated with the Nutanix AOS, obtaining it and managing it in almost the same way as if Nutanix had built its own backup software. Further, HYCU is the only data protection solution ready now to ship when Nutanix goes GA with Mine in the second half of 2019.

  • Manage HYCU through Nutanix Prism management interface. Nutanix Prism is the Nutanix interface used to manage Nutanix AOS environments. With the forthcoming release of HYCU 4.0, companies may natively administer HYCU through the Nutanix PRISM interface as part of their overall Nutanix AOS management experience.
  • Support for Nutanix Files. The scale-out characteristics of Nutanix make it very appealing for companies to use it for purposes other than simply hosting their VMs. Nutanix Files is a perfect illustration as companies can use Nutanix to host their unstructured data to get the availability, performance, and flexibility that traditional NAS providers increasingly struggle to deliver in a cost-effective manner.

HYCU 4.0’s support for Nutanix Files includes NFS support and changed file tracking. This feature eliminates the overhead of file system scans, automates protections of newly created VMs with a default policy, and should serve to accelerate the speed of incremental backups.

  • Protects physical Windows servers. Like it or not, physical Windows servers remain a fixture in many corporate environments and companies must protect them. To address this persistent need, HYCU 4.0 introduces protection for physical Windows servers so as companies look to adopt HYCU to protect their expanding Nutanix environment, they can “check the box”, so to speak, to extend their use of HYCU to protect their physical Windows environment.

The Nutanix Mine announcement represents yet another market place into which Nutanix will extend the reach of its AOS platform to provide a consistent, single cloud platform that companies may use. As Nutanix makes its Mine offering available, companies may note that Nutanix mentions multiple data protection providers who plan to come to market with solutions running on Nutanix Mine.

However, “running on Nutanix Mine” and “optimized and fully integrated with Nutanix” are two very different phrases. Of the providers who were mentioned by Nutanix that will run on Nutanix Mine, only HYCU has moved in lockstep with Nutanix AOS almost since HYCU’s inception. In so doing, HYCU has well positioned itself to become the default backup solution for Nutanix environments due to the many ways HYCU has adopted and deeply ingrained Nutanix’s philosophy of simplicity into its product’s design.

Breaking Down Scalable Data Protection Appliances

Scalable data protection appliances have arguably emerged as one of the hottest backup trends in quite some time, possibly since the introduction of deduplication into the backup process. These appliances offer backup software, cloud connectivity, replication, and scalable storage in a single, logical converged or hyperconverged infrastructure platform offering that simplify backup while positioning a company to seamlessly implement the appliance as part of its disaster recovery strategy or even create a DR solution for the first time.

It is as the popularity of these appliances increases, so does the number of product offerings and the differences between them. To help a company break down the differences between these scalable data protection appliances, here are some commonalities between them as well as three key features to evaluate how they differ.

Features in Common

At a high level these products all generally share the following seven features in common:

  1. All-inclusive licensing that includes most if not all the software features available on the appliance.
  2. Backup software that an organization can use to protect applications in its environment.
  3. Connectivity to general-purpose clouds for off-site long-term data retention.
  4. Deduplication technologies to reduce the amount of data stored on the appliance.
  5. Replication to other appliances on-premises, off-site, and even in the cloud to lay the foundation for disaster recovery.
  6. Rapid application recovery which often includes the appliance’s ability to host one or more virtual machines (VMs) on the appliance.
  7. Scalable storage that enables a company to quickly and easily add more storage capacity to the appliance.


It is only when a company begins to drill down into each of these features that it starts to observe noticeable differences between each of the features available from each provider.

All-inclusive Licensing

For instance, on the surface, all-inclusive licensing sounds straight forward. If a company buys the appliance, it obtains the software with it. That part of the statement holds true. The key question that a company must ask is, “How much capacity does the all-inclusive licensing cover before I have to start paying more?

That answer will vary by provider. Some providers such as Cohesity and Rubrik charge by the terabyte. As the amount of data on its appliance under management by its software grows, so do the licensing costs. In contrast, StorageCraft licenses the software on its OneXafe appliance by the node. Once a company licenses StorageCraft’s software for a node, the software license covers all data stored on that node (up to 204TBs raw.)


Deduplication software is another technology available on these appliances that a company might assume is implemented essentially the same way across all these available offerings. That assumption would be incorrect.

Each of these appliances implement deduplication in slightly different ways. Cohesity gives a company a few ways to implement deduplication. These include deduplicating data when it backs up data using its backup software or deduplicating data backed up by another backup software to its appliance. A company may, at its discretion, choose in this latter use case to deduplicate either inline or post-process.

StorageCraft deduplicates data using its backup software on the client and also offers inline deduplication for data backed up by another backup software to its appliance. Rubrik only deduplicates data backed up by Cloud Data Management Software. HYCU uses the deduplication technology natively found in the Nutanix AHV hypervisor.

Scalable Storage

A third area of differentiation between these appliances shows up in how they scale storage. While scale-out architectures get a lot of the press, that is only one scalable storage option available to a company. The scale-out architecture, such as employed by Cohesity, HYCU, and Rubrik, entails adding more nodes to an existing configuration.

Using a scale-up architecture, such as is available on the Asigra TrueNAS appliance from iXsystems, a company can add more disk drives to an existing chassis. Still another provider, StorageCraft, uses a combination of both architectures in its OneXafe appliance. Once can add more drives to an existing node or add more nodes to an existing OneXafe deployment.

Scalable data protection appliances are changing the backup and recovery landscape by delivering both the simplicity of management and the breadth of features that companies have long sought. However, as a cursory examination into three of their features illustrates, the differences between the features on these appliances can be significant. This makes it imperative that a company first break down the features on any of these scalable data protection appliances that it is considering for purchase to ensure it obtains the appliance with the most appropriate feature set for its requirements.

Convincing a Skeptical Buyer that Your Product is the Best

Every company tends to believe that its products are the best in whatever market it services. Nothing wrong with that mindset – it helps your company sell its products and succeed. However, convincing a skeptical buyer of the superiority of your company’s product changes the dynamics of the conversation. He or she expects you to provide some facts to back up your claims to persuade him or her to buy from you.

As a provider of competitive content for many years now, DCIG has learned a lot about how to conduct competitive research and deliver the results in a compelling and informative manner. Here are a few insights to help you convince an undecided buyer that your product is the best.

  1. Stay focused on the positive. Stay positive in all the communications you have about your products and your competitor’s products. Your prospective buyer may not agree with the glowing assessment of your product. However, one sure way to turn them off is to disparage your competitor’s product in any way.

Disparaging your competitor’s product becomes especially perilous in this age of instant communications and mobile devices. As fast as you can make a claim about your competitor’s product, your prospective buyer can search the internet and validate your assertion. If he or she finds your claim incorrect or out-of-date, you will, at best, look petty and uninformed. At worst, you may lose the buyer’s trust.

Even if you absolutely, unequivocally know your competitor does not offer a feature that your product does, stay positive. Use it as an opportunity to explain why your product offers the features it does and articulate the various use cases it solves.

  1. Present all competitive information in a high quality, professional manner. Excel spreadsheets and Word documents serve as great tools to aggregate and store your raw competitive data. The danger comes from presenting that raw data without first taking the time and effort to properly analyze it and then present it professionally.

Analyzing it, organizing it, and then presenting it in a professional manner take additional time and expertise above and beyond the time and expertise required to collect the data. These steps may even prompt you to go back and re-validate some of your data and initial assumptions.

  1. Use a third party to validate competitive research. Even assuming you collect all the competitive data and take the time to professionally prepare it, when you present yourself as the source of the data about your product’s information and your competitor’s information to the prospective buyer, it can create doubts in the buyer’s mind. In that situation, the buyer will minimally question the data’s validity and objectivity.

Here is where having a third party to review your data, validate your conclusions, and even ideally present the information can add significant value. It can help you identify potential biases in the data-gathering stage, serve to double-check your work, and save you the time, hassle and expense of putting together a professional presentation that lays out the differences between your product and your competitor. This third-party validation will heighten the value of the competitive content when you share it with your skeptical buyer.

Your product is the best and you know it. Maybe even your competitor knows it. However, at the end of the day, it only matters if your prospective buyer comes to that same conclusion. Presenting the right information in an objective manner in a professional context will go a long way toward persuading a skeptical buyer that you have the right product for his or her needs. If this sounds like a challenge that you have, DCIG would love to help. Feel free to reach out to DCIG by contacting us at this email address.

DCIG 2019-20 Enterprise Deduplication Backup Target Appliance Buyer’s Guide Now Available

DCIG is pleased to announce the availability of its 2019-20 Enterprise Deduplication Backup Target Appliance Buyer’s Guide which helps enterprises assess the enter­prise deduplication backup target appliance marketplace and identify which appliance may be the best fit for their environment. This Buyer’s Guide includes data sheets for 19 enterprise deduplication backup target appliances that achieved rankings of Recommended and Excellent. These products are available from five vendors including Cohesity, Dell EMC, ExaGrid, HPE, and NEC.

Enterprises rarely want to talk about the make-up of the infrastructure of their data centers anymore. They prefer to talk about artificial intelligence, cloud adoption, data analytics, machine learning, software-defined data centers, and uninterrupted business operations. As part of those discussions, they want to leverage current technologies to drive new insights into their business and, ultimately, create new opportunities for busi­ness growth or cost savings because their underlying data center technologies work as expected.

The operative phrase here becomes “works as expected”, especially as it relates to Enterprise Deduplication Backup Target Appliances. Expectations as to the exact features that an enterprise deduplication backup target appliance should deliver can vary widely.

If an enterprise only wants an enterprise deduplication backup target appliance that meets traditional data center requirements, every appliance covered in this Buyer’s Guide satisfies those needs. Each one can:

  • Serve as a target for backup software.
  • Analyze and break apart data in backup streams to optimize deduplication ratios.
  • Replicate backup data to other sites
  • Replicate data to the cloud for archive, disaster recovery, and long-term data retention.

While the appliances from each provider uses different techniques to accomplish these objectives and some perform these tasks better than others depending on the use case, each one does deliver on these objectives.

But for enterprises looking for a solution that enables them to meet their broader, more strategic objectives, only a couple of providers covered in this Buyer’s Guide, appear to be taking the appropriate steps to position enterprises for the software-defined hybrid data center of the future. Appliances from these provid­ers better position enterprises to perform next generation data lifecycle management tasks while still providing enterprises with the necessary features to accomplish traditional backup and recovery tasks.

It is in this context that DCIG presents its DCIG 2019-20 Enterprise Deduplication Backup Target Appliance Buyer’s Guide. As in the development of all prior DCIG Buyer’s Guides, DCIG has already done the heavy lifting for enterprise technology buyers by:

  • Identifying a common technology need with competing solutions
  • Scanning the environment to identify available products in the marketplace
  • Gathering normalized data about the features each product supports
  • Providing an objective, third-party evaluation of those features from an end-user perspective
  • Describing key product considerations and important changes in the marketplace
  • Presenting DCIG’s opinions and product feature data in a way that facilitates the rapid comparisons of various products and product features

The products that DCIG ranks as Recommended in this Guide are as follows (in alphabetical order):

Access to this Buyer’s Guide edition is available immediately by following this link to any of the following DCIG partner sites:



Analytics, Microservices and Scalable Storage Finding Their Way onto Backup Appliances

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Make the Right Choice between Scale-out and Scale-up Backup Appliance Architectures

Companies are always on the lookout for simpler, most cost-effective methods to manage their infrastructure. This explains, in part, the emergence of scale-out architectures over the last few years as a preferred means for implementing backup appliances. It is as scale-out architectures gain momentum that it behooves companies taking a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of both scale-out and scale-up architectures to make the best choice for their environment.

Backup appliances primarily ship in two architectures: scale-out and scale-up.  A scale-out architecture is comprised of nodes that are logically grouped together using software that the vendor provides. Each node ships with preconfigured amounts of memory, compute, network ports, and storage capacity. The maximum raw capacities of backup appliances from about a few dozen terabytes to nearly twelve petabytes.

In contract, a scale-up architecture places a controller with compute, memory and network ports in front of storage shelves. A storage shelf may be internal or external to the appliance. Each storage shelf holds a fixed number of disk drives.

Backup appliances based on a scale-up architecture usually require lower amounts of storage capacity for an initial deployment. If an organization needs more capacity, it adds more disk drives to these storage shelves, up to some predetermined, fixed, hard upper limit. Backup appliances that use this scale-up architecture range from a few terabytes of maximum raw capacity to over multiple petabytes of maximum raw capacity.

Scale-out Benefits and Limitations

A scale-out architecture, sometimes referred to as a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), enables a company to purchase more nodes as it needs them. Each time it acquires another node, it provides more memory, compute, network interfaces, and storage capacity to the existing solutions. This approach addresses enterprise needs to complete increased backup workloads in the same window of time since they have more hardware resources available to them.

This approach also addresses concerns about product upgrades. By placing all nodes in a single configuration, as existing nodes age or run of capacity, new nodes with higher levels of performance and more capacity can be introduced into the scale-out architecture.

Additionally, an organization may account for and depreciate each node individually. While the solution’s software can logically group physically nodes together, there is no requirement to treat all the physical nodes as a single entity. By treating each node as its own physical entity, an organization can depreciate physical over a three to five-year period (or whatever period its accounting rules allow for.) This approach mitigates the need to depreciate newly added appliances in a shorter time frame as is sometimes required when adding capacity to scale-up appliances.

The flexibility of scale-out solutions can potentially create some management overhead. Using a scale-out architecture, an enterprise should verify that as the number of nodes in the scale-out configuration increases, the solution has a means to automatically load balance the workloads and store backup data across all its available nodes. If not, an enterprise may find it spends an increasing amount of time balancing the backup jobs across its available nodes

An enterprise should also verify that all the nodes work together as one collective entity. For instance, an enterprise should verify that the scale-out solution offers “global deduplication”. This feature dedu­plicates data across all the nodes in the system, regardless of on which node the data resides. If it does not offer this feature, the solution will still deduplicate the data but only on each individual node.

Finally, an enterprise should keep its eye on the possibility of “node sprawl” when using these solutions. These solutions make it easy to grow but an enterprise needs to plan for the optimal way to add each node as individual nodes can vary widely in their respective capacity and performance characteristics.

Scale-up Benefits and Limitations

Backup appliances that use a scale-up architecture have their own sets of benefits and limitations. Three features that currently working in their favor include:

  1. Mature
  2. Well-understood
  3. Widely adopted and used

One other broader backup industry trend currently also works in favor of scale-up architectures. More enterprises use snapshots as their primary backup technique. Using these snapshots as the source for the backup frees enterprises to do backups at almost any time of the day. This helps to mitigate the night and weekend performance bottleneck that can occur when forced to do all backups at the same using one of these appliances as the backup target.

A company may encounter the following challenges when working with scale-up appliances:

First, it must size and configure the appliance correctly. This requires an enterprise to have a good understanding of its current and anticipated backup workloads, its total amount of data to backup, and its data retention requirements. Should it overestimate its requirements, it may end up with an appliance oversized for its environment. Should it underestimate its requirements, backup jobs may not complete on time or it may run out of capacity, requiring it to buy another appliance sooner than it anticipated.

Second, all storage capacity sits behind a single controller. This architecture necessitates that the controller be sufficiently sized to meet all current and future backup workloads. Even though the appliance may support the addition of more disk drives, all backup jobs will still need to run through the same controller. Depending on the amount of data and how quickly backup jobs need to complete, this could bottleneck performance and slow backup and recovery jobs.

Make the Right Backup Appliance Choice

In order to make the right choice between these two architectures, the choice may come down to how well you understand your own environment. If a company expects to experience periods of rapid or unexpected data growth, using a scale-out appliance will often be a better approach. In these scenarios, look to appliances from Cohesity, Commvault, ExaGrid, NEC and StorageCraft.

If a company expects more predictable or minimal data growth in its environment, scale-up backup solutions such as the Asigra TrueNAS and Unitrends appliances will likely better match its requirements.

DCIG Introduces Two New Offerings in 2019

DCIG often gets so busy covering all the new and emerging technologies in multiple markets that we can neglect to inform our current and prospective clients of new offerings that DCIG has brought to market. Today I address this oversight.

While many of you know DCIG for its Buyer’s Guides, blogs, and executive white papers, DCIG now offers the following two assets that companies can contract DCIG to create:

1.      DCIG Competitive Intelligence Reports. These reports start by taking a subset of the information we gather as part of creating the DCIG Buyer’s Guides. These reports compare features from two to five selected products and examines how they deliver on these features. The purpose of these reports is not to declare which feature implementation is “best”. Rather, it examines how each product implements these select features and what the most appropriate use case is for those features.

2.      DCIG Content Bundle. In today’s world, people consume the same content in multiple ways. Some prefer to hear it via podcasts. Some prefer to watch it on video. Some want to digest it in bite size chunks in blog entries. Still others want the whole enchilada in the form of a white paper. To meet these various demands, DCIG delivers the same core set of content in all four of these formats as part of its newly created content bundle.

If any of these new offerings pique your interest, let us know! We would love to have the opportunity to explain how they work and provide you with a sample of these offerings. Simply click on this link to send us an email to inquire about these services.

The New Need to Create a Secondary Perimeter to Detect for Malware’s Presence

Malware – and specifically ransomware – tends to regularly make headlines with some business somewhere in the world reporting having its data encrypted by it. Due to this routine occurrence, companies need to acknowledge that their standard first line defenses such as cybersecurity and backup software no longer completely suffice to detect malware. To augment these defenses, companies need to take new steps to shore up these traditional defenses which, for many, will start with creating a secondary perimeter around their backup stores to detect the presence of malware.

The size of companies getting infected by malware are not what one may classify as “small.” By way of example, a story appeared earlier this week about an 800-bed hospital in Malvern, Australia, that had the medical records of 15,000 of its patients in its cardiology unit compromised and encrypted at the end of January 2019.

While I am unfamiliar with both this hospital’s IT staff and procedures and the details of this incident, one can make two educated observations about its IT operations:

  • One, the hospital is sufficiently large that it likely had anti-virus software and firewalls in place that, in a perfect world, would have detected the malware and thwarted it.
  • Two, it probably did regular backups of its production data (nightly or weekly.) Even if the malware attack did succeed, it should have been able to use backups to recover.

So, the questions become:

  1. Why is his hospital, or any company for that matter, still susceptible to something as theoretically preventable as a malware attack in the form of ransomware?
  2. Why could the hospital not use its backups to recover?

Again, sufficient details are not yet publicly available about this attack to know with certainty why these defenses failed or if they were even in place. If one or both these defenses were not in place, then this hospital was susceptible to becoming a victim to this sort of attack. But even if both these defenses were in place or even if just one was in place, it begs asking, “Why did one or both of these defenses not suffice?

The short answer is, both these defenses remain susceptible to malware attacks whether used separately or together. This deficiency does not necessarily originate with poorly designed anti-virus software, backup software or firewalls. Rather, malware’s rapid evolution and maturity challenges the ability of cybersecurity and backup software providers to keep pace with them.

A 2017 study published by G DATA security experts revealed they discovered a new malware strain about every four seconds.  This massive number of malware strains makes it improbable that anti-virus software and firewalls can alone identify every new strain of malware as it enters a company.  Malware’s rapid evolution can also result in variations of documented ransomware strains such as Locky, NotPetya, and WannaCry slipping through undetected.

Backup software is also under attack by malware. Strains of malware now exist that may remain dormant and undetected for some time. Once inside a company, it first infects production files over a period of days, weeks or even months before it detonates. During the malware’s incubation period, companies will back up these infected production files. At the same time, they will, as part of their normal backup operations, delete their expiring backups.

After a few weeks or months of routine backup operations, all backups created during this time will contain infected production files. Then when the malware does detonate in the production environment, companies may get caught in a Zero-day Attack Loop.

Using cybersecurity software on the perimeter of corporate IT infrastructures and backup software inside the IT infrastructure does help companies detect and prevent malware attacks as well as recover from them. However, the latest strains of malware’s reflect its continuing evolution and growing sophistication that better equips them to bypass these existing corporate countermeasures as is evidenced by attacks on this hospital in Australia and the ones too numerous to mention around the world.

For these reasons, backup software that embeds artificial intelligence, machine learning, and, yes, even cybersecurity software, is entering the market place. Using these products, companies can create a secondary defense perimeter inside their company around their data stores that provides another means for companies to detect existing and new strains of malware as well as better position them to successfully recover from malware attacks when they do occur.

Tips to Selecting the Best Cloud Backup Solution

The cloud has gone mainstream with more companies than ever looking to host their production applications with general-purpose cloud providers such as the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). As this occurs, companies must identify backup solutions architected for the cloud that capitalize on the native features of each provider’s cloud offering to best protect their virtual machines (VMs) hosted in the cloud.

Company that move their applications and data to the cloud must orchestrate the protection of their applications and data once they move them there. GCP and other cloud providers offer highly available environments and replicate data between data centers in the same region. They also provide options in their clouds for companies to configure their applications to automatically fail over, fail back, scale up, and scale back down as well as create snapshots of their data.

To fully leverage these cloud features, companies must identify an overarching tool that orchestrates the management of these availability, backup and recovery features as well as integrates with their applications to create application-consistent backups. To select the right cloud backup solution for them, here are a few tips to help companies do so.

Simple to Start and Stop

The cloud gives companies the flexibility and freedom to start and stop services as needed and then only pay for these services as they use them. The backup solution should give companies the same ease to start and stop these services. It should only bill companies for the applications it protects during the time it protects them.

The simplicity of the software’s deployment should also extend to its configuration and ongoing management. Companies can quickly select and deploy the compute, networking, storage, and security services cloud providers offer. In the same way, the software should similarly make it easy for companies to select and configure it for the backup of VMs. They can also optionally turn the software off if needed.

Takes Care of Itself

When companies select any cloud provider’s service, companies get the benefits of the service without the maintenance headaches associated with owning it. For example, when companies choose to host data on GCP’s Cloud Storage service, they do not need to worry about administering Google’s underlying IT infrastructure. The tasks of replacing faulty HDDs, maintaining HDD firmware, keeping its Cloud Storage OS patched, etc. fall to Google.

In the same way, when companies select backup software, they want its benefits without the overhead of patching it, updating it, and managing it long term. The backup software should be available and run as any other cloud service. However, in the background, the backup software provider should take care of its software’s ongoing maintenance and updates.

Integrates with the Cloud Provider’s Identity Management Services

Companies use services such as LDAP or Microsoft AD to control access to corporate IT resources. Cloud providers also have their own identity management services that companies can use to control their employees’ access to cloud resources.

The backup software will ideally integrate with the cloud provider’s native identity management services to simplify its management and ensure that those who administer the backup solution have permission to access VMs and data in the cloud.

Integrates with the Cloud Provider’s Management Console

Companies want to make their IT environments easier to manage. For many, that begins with a single pane of glass to manage their infrastructure. In cloud environments, companies must adhere to this philosophy as cloud providers offer dozens of cloud services that individuals can view and access through that cloud provider’s management console.

To ensure cloud administrators remain aware that the backup is available as an option, much less use it, the backup software must integrate with the cloud provider’s default management console. In this way, these individuals can remember to use it and easily incorporate its management into their overall job responsibilities.

Controls Cloud Costs

It should come as no great surprise that cloud providers make their money when companies use their services. The more of their services that companies use, the more the cloud providers charge. It should also not shock anyone the default services that cloud providers offer may be among their most expensive.

The backup software can help companies avoid racking up unneeded costs in the cloud. The backup software will primarily consume storage capacity in the cloud. The software should offer features that help manage these costs. Aside from having policies in place to tier backup data as its ages across these different storage types, it should also provide options to archive, compress, deduplicate, and even delete data. Ideally, it will also spin up cloud compute resources when needed and shut them down once backup jobs complete to further control costs in the cloud.

HYCU Brings the Benefits of Cloud to Backup

Companies choose the cloud for simple reasons: flexibility, scalability, and simplicity. They already experience these benefits when they choose the cloud’s existing compute, networking, storage, and security services. So, they may rightfully wonder, why should the software service they use to orchestrate their backup experience in the cloud be any different?

In short, it should not be any different. As companies adopt and adapt to the cloud’s consumption model, they will expect all services they consume in the cloud to follow its billing and usage model. Companies should not give backup a pass on this growing requirement.

HYCU is the first backup and recovery solution that companies can choose when protecting applications and data on the Google Cloud Platform to follow these basic principles of consuming cloud services. By integrating with GCP’s identity management services, being simple to start and stop, and helping companies control their costs, among others, HYCU exemplifies how easy backup and recovery can and should be in the cloud. HYCU provides companies with the breadth of backup services that their applications and data hosted in the cloud need while relieving them of the responsibility to continue to manage and maintain it.

Number of Appliances Dedicated to Deduplicating Backup Data Shrinks even as Data Universe Expands

One would think that with the continuing explosion in the amount of data being created every year, the number of appliances that can reduce the amount of data stored by deduplicating it would be increasing. That statement is both true and flawed. On one hand, the number of backup and storage appliances that can deduplicate data has never been higher and continues to increase. On the other hand, the number of vendors that create physical target-based appliances dedicated to the deduplication of backup data continues to shrink.

Data Universe Expands

In November 2018 IDC released a report where it estimated the amount of data that will be created, captured, and replicated will increase five-fold from the current 33 zettabytes (ZBs) to about 175 ZBs in 2025. Whether one agrees with that estimate, there is little doubt that there are more ways than ever in which data gets created. These include:

  • Endpoint devices such as PCs, tablets, and smart phones
  • Edge devices such as sensors that collect data
  • Video and audio recording devices
  • Traditional data centers
  • The creation of data through the backup, replication and copying of this created data
  • The creation of metadata that describes, categorizes, and analyzes this data

All these sources and means of creating data means there is more data than ever under management. But as this occurs, the number of the products originally developed to control this data growth – hardware appliances that specialize in the deduplication of backup data after it is backed up such as those from Dell EMC, ExaGrid, and HPE – has shrunk in recent years.

Here are the top five reasons for this trend.

1. Deduplication has Moved onto Storage Arrays.

Many storage arrays, both primary and secondary, give companies the option to deduplicate data. While these arrays may not achieve the same deduplication ratios as appliances purpose-built for the deduplication of backup data, their combination of lower costs and highs levels of storage capacity offset the inabilities of their deduplication software to optimize backup data.

2. Backup software offers deduplication capabilities.

Rather than waiting to deduplicate backup data on a hardware appliance, almost all enterprise backup software products can deduplicate on either the client or the backup server before storing it. This eliminates the need to use a storage device dedicated to deduplicating data.

3. Virtual appliances that perform deduplication on the rise.

Some providers, such as Quest Software, have exited the physical deduplication backup target appliance market and re-emerged with virtual appliances that deduplicate data. These give companies new flexibility to use hardware from any provider they want and implement their software-defined data center strategy more aggressively.

4. Newly created data may not deduplicate well or at all.

A lot of the new data that companies may not deduplicate well or at all. Audio or video files may not change and will only deduplicate if full backups are done – which may be rare. Encrypted data will not deduplicate at all. In these circumstances, deduplication appliances are rarely if ever needed.

5. Multiple backup copies of the data may not be needed.

Much of the data collected from edge and endpoint devices may only need a couple of copies of data, if that. Audio and video files may also fall into this same category of not needing to retain more than a couple copies of data. To get the full benefits of a target-based deduplication appliance, one needs to backup the same data multiple times – usually at least six times if not more. This reduced need to backup and retain multiple copies of data diminishes the need for these appliances.

Remaining Deduplication Appliances More Finely Tuned for Enterprise Requirements

The reduction in the number of vendors shipping physical target-based deduplication backup appliances seems almost counter-intuitive in the light of the ongoing explosion in data growth that we are witnessing. But when one considers must of data being created and its corresponding data protection and retention requirements, the decrease in the number of target-based deduplication appliances available is understandable.

The upside is that the vendors who do remain and the physical target-based deduplication appliances that they ship are more finely tuned for the needs of today’s enterprises. They are larger, better suited for recovery, have more cloud capabilities, and account for some of these other broader trends mentioned above. These factors and others will be covered in the forthcoming DCIG Buyer’s Guide on Enterprise Deduplication Backup Appliances.

The Early Implications of NVMe/TCP on Ethernet Network Designs

The ratification in November 2018 of the NVMe/TCP standard officially opened the doors for NVMe/TCP to begin to find its way into corporate IT environments. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to listen in on a webinar that SNIA hosted which provided an update on NVMe/TCP’s latest developments and its implications for enterprise IT. Here are four key takeaways from that presentation and how these changes will impact corporate data center Ethernet network designs.

First, NVMe/TCP will accelerate the deployment of NVMe in enterprises.

NVMe is already available in networked storage environments using competing protocols such as RDMA which ships as RoCE (RDMA over Converged Ethernet). The challenge is no one (well, very few anyway) use RDMA in any meaningful way in their environment so using RoCE to run NVMe never gained and will likely never gain any momentum.

The availability of NVMe over TCP changes that. Companies already understand TCP, deploy it everywhere, and know how to scale and run it over their existing Ethernet networks. NVMe/TCP will build on this legacy infrastructure and knowledge.

Second, any latency that NVMe/TCP introduces still pales in comparison to existing storage networking protocols.

Running NVMe over TCP does introduces latency versus using RoCE. However, the latency that TCP introduces is nominal and will likely be measured in microseconds in most circumstances. Most applications will not even detect this level of latency due to the substantial jump in performance that natively running NVMe over TCP will provide versus using existing storage protocols such as iSCSI and FC.

Third, the introduction of NVMe/TCP will require companies implement Ethernet network designs that minimize latency.

Ethernet networks may implement buffering in Ethernet switches to handle periods of peak workloads. Companies will need to modify that network design technique when deploying NVMe/TCP as buffering introduces latency into the network and NVMe is highly latency sensitive. Companies will need to more carefully balance how much buffering they introduce on Ethernet switches.

Fourth, get familiar with the term “incast collapse” on Ethernet networks and how to mitigate it.

NVMe can support up to 64,000 queues. Every queue that NVMe opens up initiates a TCP session. Here is where challenges may eventually surface. Simultaneously opening up multiple queues will result in multiple TCP sessions initiating at the same time. This could, in turn, have all these sessions arrive at a common congestion point in the Ethernet network at the same time. The network remedies this by having all TCP sessions backing off at the same time, or an incast collapse, creating latency in the network.

Source: University of California-Berkeley

Historically this has been a very specialized and rare occurrence in networking due to the low probability that such an event would ever take place. But the introduction of NVMe/TCP into the network makes the possibility of such a event much more likely to occur, especially as more companies deploy NVMe/TCP into their environment.

The Ratification of the NVMe/TCP

Ratification of the NVMe/TCP standard potentially makes every enterprise data center a candidate for storage systems that can deliver dramatically better performance to their work loads. Until the performance demands of every workload in a data center are met instantaneously, some workload requests will queue up behind a bottleneck in the data center infrastructure.

Just as introducing flash memory into enterprise storage systems revealed bottlenecks in storage operating system software and storage protocols, NVMe/TCP-based storage systems will reveal bottlenecks in data center networks. Enterprises seeking to accelerate their applications by implementing NVMe/TCP-based storage systems may discover bottlenecks in their networks that need to be addressed in order to see the full benefits that NVMe/TCP-based storage.

To view this presentation in its entirety, follow this link.

All-inclusive Software Licensing: Best Feature Ever … with Caveats

On the surface, all-inclusive software licensing sounds great. You get all the software features that the product offers at no additional charge. You can use them – or not use them – at your discretion. It simplifies product purchases and ongoing licensing.

But what if you opt not to use all the product’s features or only need a small subset of them? In those circumstances, you need to take a hard look at any product that offers all-inclusive software licensing to determine if it will deliver the value that you expect.

Why We Like All-Inclusive Software Licensing

All-inclusive software licensing has taken off in recent years with more enterprise data storage and data protection products than ever delivering their software licensing in this manner. Further, this trend shows no signs of abating for the following reasons:

  • It makes lives easier for the procurement since they do not have manage and negotiate software licensing separately.
  • It makes lives easier for the IT staff who want to use its features only to find out they cannot use them because they do not have a license to use them.
  • It helps the vendors because their customers use their features. The more they use and like the features, the more apt they are to keep using the product long term.
  • It provides insurance for the companies involved that if they do unexpectedly need a feature, they do not have to go back to the proverbial well and ask for more money to license it.
  • It helps IT be more responsive to changes in business requirements. Business need can change unexpectedly. It happens where IT is assured that a certain feature will never be of interest to the end user. Suddenly, this “never gonna need it” becomes a “gotta have it” requirement.

All-inclusive software licensing solves these dilemmas and others.

The Best Feature Ever … Has Some Caveats

The reasons as to why companies may consider all-inclusive software licensing the best feature ever are largely self-evident. But there are some caveats as to why companies should minimally examine all-inclusive software licensing before they select any product that supports it.

  1. Verify you will use the features offered by the platform. It is great that a storage platform offers deduplication, compression, thin provisioning, snapshots, replication, metro clusters, etc., etc. at no extra charge. But if you do not use these features now and have no plans to use them, guess what? You are still going to indirectly pay for them if you buy the product.
  2. Verify the provider measures and knows which of its features are used. When you buy all-inclusive software licensing, you generally expect the vendor to support it and continue to develop it. But how does the vendor know which of its features are being used, when they are being used, and for what purposes? It makes no sense for the provider to staff its support lines with experts in replication or continue developing its replication features if no one uses it. Be sure you select a product that regularly monitors and reports back to the providers which of its features are used, how they are used and actively supports and develops them.
  3. Match your requirements to the features available on the product. It still pays to do your homework. Know your requirements and then evaluate products with all-inclusive software licensing based upon them.
  4. Verify the software works well in your environment. I have run across a few providers who led the way in providing all-inclusive software licensing. Yet the ones who selected the product based on this offering found out the features were not as robust as they anticipated or were so difficult to use that they had to abandon using them. In short, having a license to use software that does not work in your environment does not help anyone.
  5. Try to quantify if other companies use the specific software features. Ideally, you want to know that others like you use the feature in production. This can help you avoid become an unsuspecting beta-tester for that feature.

Be Grateful but Wary

I, for one, am grateful that providers have come around with more of them making all-inclusive software licensing available as a licensing option for their products. But the software features that vendors include with their all-inclusive software licensing vary from product to product. They also differ in their maturity, robustness, and fullness of support.

It behooves everyone to hop on the all-inclusive software licensing bandwagon. But as you do, verify to which train you hitched your wagon and that it will take you to where you want to go.

Time: The Secret Ingredient behind an Effective AI or ML Product

In 2019 the level of interest that companies expressed in using artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) exploded. Their interest is justifiable. These technologies gather the almost endless streams of data coming out of the scads of devices that companies deploy everywhere, analyze it, and then turn it into useful information. But time is the secret ingredient that companies must look for as they look to select an effective AI or ML product.

Collection Must Proceed AI and ML

The premise behind the deployment of AI and ML technologies
is sound. Every device that a company deploys, in whatever form it takes (video
camera, storage array, server, network switch, automatic door opener, whatever)
has some type of software on it. This software serves two purposes:

  1. Operates the device
  2. Gathers data about the device’s operations, health, and potentially even the environment in which it operates

Option 1 initially drove the development and deployment of
the device’s software while Option 2 sometimes got characterized as a necessary
evil to identify and resolve issues with the device before the device was
impacted. But with more devices Internet enabled, the data each device gathers no
longer needs to remain stranded on each device. It could be centralized.

Devices can now send their data to a central data repository. This is often hosted and supported by the device manufacturer though companies can do this data collection and aggregation on their own.

This is where the AI and ML comes into the picture. Once collected, the manufacturers use AI or ML software to analyze this aggregated amount of data. This analysis can reveal broader trends and patterns otherwise undetectable if the data remained on the devices.

Time Can Deliver an Effective AI or ML Strategy

But here is a key to choosing a product that is truly effective at delivering AI and ML. The value that AI and ML technologies bring relies upon having devices deployed and in production in the field for some time. New vendors, products, and even new deployments, even when they offer AI and ML features, may not provide meaningful insights until the devices collect and analyze a large amount of data over some time from these devices. This can take months or perhaps even years to accomplish.

Only after data is collected and analyzed will the full value of AI or ML technologies become fully evident. Initially, they may help anticipate and prevent some issues. But their effectiveness at anticipating and predicting issues will be limited until they have months or years worth of data at their disposal to analyze.

The evidence of this is seen from companies such as HPE Nimble and Unitrends, among others. Each has improved its ability to better support its clients and resolve issues before companies even know they have issues. For example, HPE Nimble and Unitrends each use their respective technologies to identify and resolve many hardware issues before they impact production.

In each example, each provider needed to collect a great deal of data over multiple years and analyze it before they could proactively and confidently take the appropriate actions to predict and resolve specific issues.

This element of time gives the manufacturers who have large numbers of devices already in the field and who offer AI and ML such a substantial head start in this race to be the leaders in AI and MO. Those just deploying these technologies will still need to gather data for some time period from multiple data points before they can provide the broad type of analytics that companies need and are coming to expect.

HYCU-X Piggybacks on Existing HCI Platforms to Put Itself in the Scale-out Backup Conversation

Vendors are finding multiple ways to enter the scale-out hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) backup conversation. Some acquire other companies such as StorageCraft did in early 2017 with its acquisition of ExaBlox. Others build their own such as Cohesity and Commvault did. Yet among these many iterations of scale-out, HCI-based backup systems, HYCU’s decision to piggyback its new HYCU-X on top of existing HCI offerings, starting with Nutanix’s AHV HCI Platform, represents one of the better and more insightful ways to deliver backup using a scale-out architecture.

To say that HYCU and Nutanix were inextricably linked before the HYCU-X announcement almost goes without saying. HYCU was the first to market in June 2017 with a backup solution specifically targeted and integrated with the Nutanix AHV HCI Platform. Since then, HYCU has been a leader in providing backup solutions targeted at Nutanix AHV environments.

In coming out with HYCU-X, HYCU addresses an overlooked segment in the HCI backup space. Companies looking for a scale-out secondary storage systems to use as their backup solution typically had to go with a product that was:

  1. New to the backup market
  2. New to the HCI market; or
  3. New to both the backup and HCI markets.

Of these three, a backup provider that fell into either the 2nd or 3rd category where it was or is in any way new to the HCI market is less than ideal. Unfortunately, this is where most backup products fall as the HCI market itself is still relatively new and maturing.

However, this scenario puts these vendors in a tenuous position when it
comes to optimizing their backup product. They must continue to improve and
upgrade their backup solution even as they try to build and maintain an
emerging and evolving HCI platform that supports it. This is not an ideal
situation for most backup providers as it can sap their available resources.

By HYCU initially delivering HYCU-X built on Nutanix’s AHV Platform, it avoids having to create and maintain separate teams to build separate backup and HCI solutions. Rather, HYCU can rely upon Nutanix’s pre-existing and proven AHV HCI Platform and focus on building HYCU-X to optimize Nutanix AHV Platform for use in this role as a scale-out HCI backup platform. In so doing, both HCYU and Nutanix can strive to continue to deliver features and functions that can be delivered in as little as one-click.

Now could companies use Nutanix or other HCI platforms as a scale-out storage target without HYCU-X? Perhaps. But with HYCU-X, companies get the backup engine they need to manage the snapshot and replication features natively found on the HCI platform.

By HYCU starting with Nutanix, companies can leverage the Nutanix AHV HCI Platform as a backup target. They can then use HYCU-X to manage the data once it lands there. Further, companies can then potentially use HYCU-X to backup other applications in their environment.

While some may argue that using Nutanix instead of purpose-built scale-out secondary HCI solutions from other backup providers will cost more, the feedback that HYCU has received from its current and prospective customer base suggests this the opposite is true. Companies find that by time they deploy these other providers’ backup and HCI solutions, their costs could exceed the costs of a Nutanix solution running HYCU-X.

The scale-out backup HCI space continues to gain momentum for good reason. Companies want the ease of management, flexibility, and scalability that these solutions provide along with the promise that they give for them to make disaster recoveries much simpler to adopt and easier to manage over time.

By HYCU piggybacking initially on the Nutanix AHV HCI Platform to deliver a scale-out backup solution, companies get the reliability and stability of one of the largest, established HCI providers and access to a backup solution that runs natively on the Nutanix AHV HCI Platform. That will be a hard combination to beat.

Best Practices for Getting Ready to Go “All-in” on the Cloud

To ensure an application migration to the cloud goes well or that a company should even migrate a specific application to the cloud requires a thorough understanding of each application. This understanding should encompass what resources the application currently uses as well as how it behaves over time. Here is a list of best practices that a company can put in place for its on-premises applications before it moves any of them to the cloud.

  1. Identify all applications running on-premises. A company may assume it knows what applications it has running in its data center environment. However, it is better to be safe than sorry. Take inventory and actively monitor its on-premises environment to establish a baseline. During this time, identify any new virtual or physical machines that come online.
  2. Quantify the resources used by these applications and when and how they use them. This step ensures that a company has a firm handle on the resources each application will need in the cloud, how much of these resources each one will need, and what types of resources it will need. For instance, simply knowing one needs to move a virtual machine (VM) to the cloud is insufficient. A company needs to know how much CPU, memory, and storage each VM needs; when the application runs; its run-time behavior; and, its periods of peak performance to choose the most appropriate VM instance type in the cloud to host it.
  3. Identify which applications will move and which will stay. Test and development applications will generally top the list of applications that a company will move to the cloud first. This approach gives a company the opportunity to become familiar with the cloud, its operations, and billing. Then a company should prioritize production applications starting with the ones that have the lowest level of impact to the business. Business and mission critical applications should be some of the last ones that a company moves. Applications that will stay on-premises are often legacy applications or those that cloud providers do not support.
  4. Map each application to the appropriate VM instance in the cloud. To make the best choice requires that a company knows both their application requirements and the offerings available from the cloud provider. This can take some time to quantify as Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers over 90 different VM instance types on which a company may choose to host an application while Microsoft Azure offers over 150 VM instance types. Further, each of these provider’s VMs may be deployed as an on-demand, reserved, or spot instance that each has access to multiple types of storage. A company may even look to move to serverless compute. To select the most appropriate VM instance type for each application requires that a company know at the outset the capacity and performance requirements of each VM as well as its data protection requirements. This information will ensure a company can select the best VM to host it as well as appropriately configure the VM’s CPU, data protection, memory, and storage settings.
  1. Determine which general-purpose cloud provider to use. Due to the multiple VM instance types each cloud provider offers and the varying costs of each VM instance type, it behooves a company to explore which cloud provider can best deliver the hosting services it needs. This decision may come down to price. Once it maps each of its applications to a cloud provider’s VM instance type, a company should be able to get an estimate of what its monthly cost will be to host its applications in each provider’s cloud.

Companies have good reasons for wanting to go “all-in” on the cloud as part of their overall business and IT strategies. But integral to both these strategies, a company must also have a means to ensure the stability of this new hybrid cloud environment as well as provide assurances that its cloud costs will be managed and controlled over time. By going “all-in” on software such as Quest Software’s Foglight, a company can have confidence that its decision to go “all-in” on the cloud will succeed initially and then continue to pay-off over time.

A recent white paper by DCIG provides more considerations for going all-in on the cloud to succeed both initially and over time. This paper is available to download by following this link to Quest Software’s website.