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.

Forrester’s Take on Enterprise Backup and Recovery

Recently, Forrester published The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Backup
And Recovery Software, Q2 2013. I wasn’t surprised by their suggestion that “CommVault [Sympana 10.0], EMC [Avamar 7.0 and NetWorker 10.1], IBM [TSM 6.4), and Symantec [Netbackup 7.5] lead the pack. It’s a tight four-horse race for the top honors — [they] all scored high on strategy and current offerings.” These are the four vendors that are always pushing and shoving on each other in analyst comparisons. The thing that caught my attention in this report was the expert job analyst Rachel Dines did in pealing back a complex market space to uncover some important strategic observations about each vendor.

After having participated in the IBM response to the investigation Forrester did, I have to give a shout out to Rachel for being thorough. Like most analyst studies, the Forrester Wave was backed by a detailed questionnaire. But Rachel went one step further requiring an exceptionally thorough live demonstration. You can watch the somewhat raw 1-hour TSM demonstration that IBM did.

Forrester’s punch lines

“CommVault excels with an integrated platform.” I’ve been watching CommVault for years and agree with Rachel’s punch line. CommVault established their position in the market by unifying such disciplines as backup and archive in a single interface and targeting jack-of-all-trades administrators in small and medium businesses. In recent years, they have carried that unified focus into the upper end of medium businesses and a healthy number of enterprises.

“EMC focuses on hardware and software integration.”  EMC is continuing to do what I think I would do if I were in their shoes. In most segments, their disk array business enjoys leading market share. So when it comes to software, they tend towards clothing their disk install base. It’s the “Would you like fries with that hamburger?” model. A vendor-centric closed loop strategy like that can result in some nice solutions but some customers will weigh the value vs. the circular lock-in it creates.

“Symantec reinvents itself and refines focus.” I’ve also been watching the Symantec backup business for years. , and I think Rachel sums up what they need at the moment – some reinvention and solid execution. When Symantec acquired VERITAS in 2005, they got some good technology. The downside of the merger was that VERITAS’ laser focus got watered down and the portfolio has struggled.

“IBM simplifies management, focuses on cloud.” Sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball to look into the future, but who has one of those? Maybe a magic eight ball will have to do. 8-ballRachel points out that “…many firms are weary of the constant battle with their backup software and are looking for a change.” The battle is with deploying agents, managing backup windows, resolving failed backups, upgrading and patching software, and performing restores.
Magic eight ball, when will IT managers just give up? IBM shares Rachel’s point-of-view that IT managers are already giving up in places – running old versions of software, letting maintenance contracts lapse, and even stopping backups on certain systems.
Magic eight ball, what are IT managers going to do instead? There is a lot being said about cloud backup, but mostly in the context of where backup copies should be stored. Everything on premise for quick restore, everything off premise in the public cloud for cost efficiency, or some hybrid of the two? I think the storage location will work itself out as IT managers balance economics and recovery time objectives. Hybrid storage models will ultimately prevail. But that doesn’t address the real question.
Magic eight ball, if IT managers are giving up on traditional management of backup systems, what are they going to do instead? Rachel picked up on two important strategic bets IBM is making with TSM.

  1. The generation of storage scientists that have managed backup, and all storage for that matter, are aging (like me). I talked about this phenomena in my post Do IT managers really “manage” storage anymore? So, for those firms who choose to continue the battle on their own, IBM, with a lot of help from its clients, is addressing the problem with an entirely new approach to storage administration.
  2. Rachel also observed that there are a good number of IT managers who are tired of the battle. This is where I differ from the pundits on cloud and backup. In this context, I think cloud is less about a storage location and more about a management model. Do I want to continue doing backup on my own (after all, as Rachel points out “it is painful, slow, and expensive, and seems to provide zero strategic business value”), or do I want to outsource it to a management provider in the cloud? IBM is spending a lot of time working with managed service providers who will take over all the day-to-day headaches of meeting backup service level agreements (SLA’s), most in any combination of on premise, public cloud, or hybrid storage configurations you want. Here are just a few.

Watch the LiveStream of Cobalt Iron CEO Richard Spurlock as he talks about the synergies between these two strategic bets.

At IBM, this entirely new approach to administration and focus on cloud as a management model are being coupled with a technology suite that Rachel says brings “…strengths in deduplication, manageability (due to significant improvements in TSM Operations Center), continuity, and restore features” and “…excels in extremely large and complex environments…”. Magic eight ball, do you know of an IT manager who would say “gee, my environment isn’t complex at all. It’s just downright simple”?

Whether you intend to continue the battle on your own or let a cloud service provider take over the headache, it’s worth looking into a software suite that excels at the kind of environment you have.

VMware backup for the iPOD generation

Last week I explored the question, Do IT managers really “manage” storage anymore? In that post I talked about a shift I am seeing with a lot of the clients I work with, from specialized storage scientist administrators to a new breed of virtual environment, converged infrastructure and cloud admins I call the iPod generation. These folks have been brought up with a whole different level of administrative expectation. They have no desire or expertise to deal with unique knobs and dials on each type of device the way a storage scientist does when he tunes the environment. Instead, they value learning an outcome-based interface approach once and then using it for everything. These are the guys and gals who say “I like the Apple interface across my laptop, tablet and phone”.

Interestingly, there is another environment where the iPod generation flourishes. They do well as jack-of-all-trades administrators in small and medium businesses multitasking(SMBs). If for no other reason than scale, IT administrators in SMBs tend to be responsible for compute and storage and backup and networks and workloads and so on.  The simple fact that there is a lot of variety can severely impact the productivity of these administrators. You can imagine the value they would find in a single interface that could span the infrastructure.

My view is that this is one reason virtual datacenters are rising rapidly in SMBs. The recent IDC Worldwide SMB 2013 Predictions research agrees with the trend pointing to the growing importance of virtualization for servers and storage with 2013 being a key year for expansion beyond midmarket into larger small businesses. To highlight the benefits SMB administrators could enjoy, I’ll illustrate a specific use case with a virtual server environment using VMware vSphere.

An administrator working with VMware has the option of administering all virtual compute resources from the VMware vCenter interface. But, as mentioned above, there is a lot more to the daily care and feeding of an SMB datacenter than just virtual servers. Fortunately for the administrator, VMware has done a good job of opening up the interface for vCenter plug-ins from third party providers to add many of the capabilities the jack-of-all-trades administrator needs to routinely access. Backup capabilities are a good example.

IBM, as a third party provider, purpose built an exceptionally efficient backup tool uniquely for virtual server environments. It’s called Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments (TSM for VE).

TSM for VE in VMware vSphere web client
TSM for VE in VMware vSphere web client

The snapshot and disk-based backup capabilities of TSM for VE include de-duplication and incremental-forever technology for extreme efficiency, keeping software and infrastructure costs down. For the administrator, IBM has fully integrated the TSM for VE interface into VMware vCenter.

Now, for backup at least, the jack-of-all-trades administrator who grew up in the iPod generation can perform all their virtual server and backup administration from the same interface.

What do you think? Are you, or do you work with an SMB IT administrator? Is jack-of-all-trades or iPod generation a fair characterization of who you are?