Backup redesign: A top priority for IT managers (Part 3)

This is the conclusion of a three-part conversation with Dr. Xin Wang, product manager for IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM). In part 1, Xin discussed what she has learned about the challenges IT managers are facing leading to the backup redesign movement. In part 2, she began discussing her near term plans for TSM. Let’s conclude the conversation:

The Line: It seems like there is lots to watch for in the VMware space. The final observation you made was about administrators. Say a little bit there.

Xin: The administration job is changing. Nobody has time to do anything they don’t need to be doing. We introduced a completely new approach to backup administration earlier this year with the IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Operations Center. Soon we plan to make the administrator’s job even easier.

  • Deployment of a new backup server instance can be a task that requires expertise and customization. So we’re planning to remove the guesswork with blueprints for different sized configurations.
  • Auto deployment and configuration. This includes daily care and feeding of the backup repository, provisioning the protection of a new workload (client), monitoring status and activities, redriving failures and so on. We’re expanding the Operations Center.

The Line: Xin, it sounds like the near future holds some exciting possibilities for IT managers as they redesign their backup environments. Is there anything else you would like to mention that I missed?

Xin: Actually, yes. There’s one more really important thing. Whether an IT manager is sticking with traditional backup methods or redesigning with snapshots, VMware integration or one of the best practice blueprints, often times there is still a need to move some of those copies somewhere else for safe keeping. Think vaulting, offsite storage or disaster recovery. This can take time, use up network resources and result in a really large repository.

Since the days when TSM pioneered the idea of incremental forever backup, we’ve been leading the industry in data reduction to minimize strain on the environment. It’s one of the things that drive the economic savings we show in Butterfly studies. Soon we are planning some enhancements to our native client-side and server-side deduplication that will improve ingest capacity on the order of 10x. That’s 1,000 percent more deduplicated data each day! We plan to fold this capability into our new blueprints so IT managers can get the benefit right out of the box.

The Line: Nice! Xin, thank you for taking the time to share your insights with my readers.

If you have questions for Xin, please join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Backup redesign: A top priority for IT managers (Part 2)

This is part 2 of a three-part conversation with Dr. Xin Wang, product manager for IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM).  In part 1, Xin discussed what she has learned about the challenges IT managers are facing leading to the backup redesign movement. Let’s continue the conversation:

The Line: So, first you mentioned that data is so big the old style of backup can’t keep up.

Xin: That’s right. For a long time, the primary method of capturing copies of data was to load a backup agent on a server, grab the copy and transfer it across some kind of network to a backup server for safe keeping. But data is getting too big for that. So today, we are helping clients redesign with a tool we call IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager (FCM). The point of FCM is to bridge between the application that owns the data and the storage system that is housing the data so that IT managers can simply make snapshots where the data lives.

The Line: That may be new to some clients, but it seems things like FCM have been around for a while. What’s new?

Xin: You’re right. Snapshots have been around for a while and so has FCM. But the economic driver for redesigning backup environments so they use snapshots hasn’t been as strong as it is today.

The Line: Okay. How about the technical side? Snapshots are done differently on different storage devices. What storage infrastructures does FCM work with?

Xin: A lot is being made about the benefits of software defining your storage environment. One of the many benefits of that approach is that there is only one interface for snapshotting regardless of your choice in physical disk hardware. Move a workload from one kind of array to another, or even change vendors altogether, and your snapshot interface still stays the same. So:

IBM FlashCopy Manager in a Software Defined Storage environment
IBM FlashCopy Manager in a Software Defined Storage environment

If an IT manager chooses to continue working with native physical hardware, the support list is more specific.

  • For applications running on Windows, FCM still supports most any physical disk.
  • For applications running on Linux or Unix, FCM works with IBM and NetApp disk arrays.
  • Soon we plan to offer an open application programming interface (API) that will enable plugins for other physical disk arrays from vendors like EMC and Hitachi.

The Line: Nice! So let’s move to your second point, that VMware is causing IT managers to redesign their backup environment.

Xin: VMware has caused IT managers to redesign a lot of things. So much so that a lot of IT managers I talk with have had to prioritize. In many cases, backup redesign has been one of those things that has been put off until now.

The Line: What do you mean “until now”?

Xin: Again, it’s about economics. The number of workloads and amount of data in these VMware estates is reaching critical mass. IT managers who have plodded along simply loading a backup agent in each guest machine are feeling pain. We are helping IT managers redesign with a tool custom built for VMware— IBM TSM for Virtual Environments (TSM for VE). TSM for VE is already nicely integrated with the VMware API for Data Protection (VADP), meaning its full set of snapshot features is available to IT managers without deploying agents in every VM guest. Soon we plan to add some new and really powerful integration.

  • When restoring a virtual machine, the virtual machine disk (VMDK) will be instantly available for access the moment the restore starts. Verification can start right away, with no waiting around for data to be moved anywhere.
  • There’s new integration with the vCloud API to back up, manage and recover a vApp in vCloud Director.
  • When running workloads like Microsoft SQL Server or Exchange on VMware, there can be object or item level recovery without the need for an agent to back up the application VM.
  • There’s a richer set of administrative and reporting capabilities in the vCenter plug-in.
  • For FCM users, there is instant recovery of an entire VMware data store and coexistence with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM).

Check back soon for part 3 of the interview in which Xin finishes sharing her near term plans for TSM and adds some closing thoughts. If you have questions for Xin, please join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Backup redesign: A top priority for IT managers (Part 1)

Person Marking in a Checkbox 5722106Backup redesign continues to be toward the top of most analysts’ lists for 2013 IT priorities. I’ve talked a lot about some of the catalysts behind this trend like data growth, big data, VMware and software defined storage. With IT managers redesigning, the incumbent enterprise backup vendors have a lot of motivation to offer innovative solutions that are a bit ahead of the times. The leaders have all placed strategic bets on what the winning formula will be. I discussed these bets in my post “Forrester’s take on enterprise backup and recovery.”

For its part, IBM is being quick about helping IT managers redesign. The help starts with a clear understanding of the economic benefit a redesign can bring. After all, in today’s environment few IT managers make technology moves simply for the sake of technology. Storage is about economics. I discuss this more fully in my post “Does trying to find a better economic approach to storage give you ‘Butterflies’?” But there is still efficient technology that enables these economic savings, and the person in IBM who is ultimately responsible for the technology in IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) is the product manager, Dr. Xin Wang.

Businesswoman touch the virtual cloud buttonRecently I spoke with Xin about the important shifts IT managers are facing and how she is helping IT managers reimagine backup.

The Line: Xin, I’m going to start with the “Dr.” part of your title. Should folks call you the Backup Doctor?

Xin: (laughing) Well, I don’t know about that. I’m actually a doctor of Applied Physics. One thing that drove me to earn a PhD and has moved me ever since is that I love to learn. I started my career in IBM hard disk drive research, spent some time as a storage software developer and development manager, and have now been working with backup clients as a product manager for several years.

The Line: Wow, I could probably do an entire post just on your career. But let’s stay focused. What have you learned about the challenges IT managers are facing and this whole backup redesign movement?

Labyrinth - business conceptXin:  It’s interesting. The challenges aren’t secret but they carry big implications for backup. Data is growing like crazy; that’s no secret. But it is now so big that the old method of loading an agent on a server to collect and copy backup data over a network to a tape isn’t keeping up. So IT managers are redesigning.

And what about servers? Servers aren’t servers anymore. Thanks to VMware, they are virtual machines that come, go and move around in a hurry. Traditional backup is too rigid. So IT managers are redesigning.

Administrators are changing too. The generation of backup admins who grew up tuning the environment is giving way to a new generation of backup, VMware and cloud admins who need much more intuitive and automated management tools. And so IT managers are redesigning. (Editorial comment: I discussed the change in administration in my post “Do IT managers really ‘manage’ storage anymore?)

The Line: Okay, I think I’m seeing your trend. IT managers are redesigning. And it seems like you’ve got a clear idea of why. Can we take your list one at a time? I think my readers would be interested in what you are doing with TSM in each of these areas.

Xin: Sure, that makes sense.

Check back for part 2 of the interview in which Xin shares her near term plans for TSM. If you have questions for Xin, please join the conversation by leaving a comment below.