Archive for the ‘virtualised backup’ Category

If it rains this weekend, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

02/10/2009

Before I go any further, please allow me to clearly state that I am not intending to offend anyone nor be blasphemous or sacrilegious in any way. If you are easily offended, best not to read beyond this and perhaps give this Weekly View a miss.

“14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make it an ark with compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 Make an opening for daylight in the ark, and terminate it within a cubit of the top. Put the entrance to the ark in its side; make it with bottom, second, and third decks.

17 “For My part, I am about to bring the Flood — waters upon the earth — to destroy all flesh under the sky in which there is breath of life; everything on earth shall perish. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall enter the ark, with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives. 19 And of all that lives, of all flesh, you shall take two of each into the ark to keep alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 From birds of every kind, cattle of every kind, every kind of creeping thing on earth, two of each shall come to you to stay alive. 21 For your part, take of everything that is eaten and store it away, to serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did so; just as God commanded him, so he did.

Chapter 7

1 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, with all your household, for you alone have I found righteous before Me in this generation. 2 Of every clean animal you shall take seven pairs, males and their mates, and of every animal that is not clean, two, a male and its mate; 3 of the birds of the sky also, seven pairs, male and female, to keep seed alive upon all the earth. 4 For in seven days’ time I will make it rain upon the earth, forty days and forty nights, and I will blot out from the earth all existence that I created.” 5 And Noah did just as the Lord commanded him. “

What’s this got to do with Data Storage & Protection?

Being a data guy, I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Noah. Think about it …first the Big Guy tells our man Noah to go ahead and build a massive storage device, and even goes so far as to instruct him to make it a three tier model instead of a flat tier! That’s right readers …bottom, second, and third decks could easily be solid state drive shelves, fibre channel drives, and SATA drives …or SAN, NAS, and archive if you prefer. And then the Big Guy actually TELLS Noah not only when to expect the outage, but also how long it will last! Oh that we could be so lucky when designing business continuity systems.

But what really interests me most about the whole shebang is that our man Noah had, in essence, a data problem. Yes, I know I’m probably skipping over the more obvious and probably bigger problem of the fact that the earth …and everyone Noah had ever known …was about to be destroyed by a massive flood but hang with me as I do have a point to make here.

The reason that Noah had a data problem is because the Big Guy tells Noah to grab seven pairs of every clean animal and two of every non clean animal …not to mention birds, seeds, creepy crawly type things …the lot. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking that being cooped up with that lot for forty days is going to get a bit smelly at the very least …and prolly a bit dangerous as the bigguns try to eat the littleuns and whatnot. But Noah has to grab ‘em and keep ‘em in the ark as everything he’s collected is going to be used to reproduce and repopulate the earth once it had dried out a bit. By the way, do you know what the first was our boy Noah did when he was able to leave the ark? Plants a vineyard, makes some wine, and gets royally pissed! Good man …and as some of you know, I’m a bit of a wine lover so I’ve always had a soft spot for Noah.

But I digress. I’ve often wondered if it wouldn’t have been a whole lot easier …and a lot less smelly …if the Big Guy had just said to Noah, ‘Look, just get out there and collect DNA swabs of everything and we’ll worry about how to reconstitute it all later.’

On the one hand, the Flood introduced the harshest version of data deduplication I have ever heard of …but also introduced us to the idea of the needs for good backups, a sturdy backup architecture, and stonking business continuity plan.

If only the Big Guy had let Noah use ZPR [Zero Page Reclamation] by grabbing DNA samples and sticking them in a yacht instead of having to round up the London Zoo and building a massive ark by hand.

Yet none of our customers have the pleasure of knowing when their next catastrophic event will be nor which of their systems will be affected. Some folks decide to go ahead and replicate everything from their production environments to a secondary or sometimes even tertiary datacentre ….challenge is, as data grows beyond a couple of terabytes to multiple petabytes that can get awfully expensive to maintain. Think herding two pairs of elephants from London to Manchester constantly as opposed to letting a couple of pairs of swallows fly back and forth on their own.

What to do?

Well, data deduplication of backup data can certainly lighten the load …the industry standard is a 20:1 ratio, or twenty copies of extraneous data we can get rid of for every one copy of ‘good’ data although I frequently see ratios that are much higher in the field.

Equally, given that 90% of data backed will be restored within six weeks …or not at all …it makes a lot of sense to consider backing up to a virtual tape library or to disk first, dedpuing as we go, and then clone whatever is left in six weeks to tape for long term storage.

Inevitably, however, as my dear old grandfather used to say …‘You gotta know where you are first if you want to know how to get somewhere.’ We need to understand what data we have, align it to the business importance placed on each data set as not all data is created equal, and how best to protect both the data long term and provide continuity for the business in the event of a catastrophic event or outage.

I can think of no better starting point than our Storage Assessment & Strategy Service which addresses all of these areas and gives our customers a well defined series of real recommendations which have demonstrable ROI, cost benefit, and minimised disruption to their production business.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like help in discussing your backup/recovery and business continuity strategies.

If only poor Noah had had access to the Sharpen Your Business tools from Computacenter!

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

It’s about much more than socks.

16/08/2009

As many of you may know, the UK is my adopted home and not the place of my birth.  I spent the formative years of my life in the United States and, during that time, picked up both some good and, frankly, bad habits.  It took me a while to recognise that there are an abundance of words which should be spelt with an s and not a z …that z is pronounced ‘zed’ …that colour is indeed meant to be spelt with a ‘u’ …that a fortnight is fourteen days …that there is a difference between while and whilst …I could go on and on, but I won’t.  One of the most dramatic changes I have noticed in the ten plus years I have lived in my new homeland [beside the flattening of my accent!] has been the clothes I wear.  Now, I know that I still sometimes dress like a technoweenie [stop laughing Terry] but if you had seen me when I first moved to Ireland you would wonder as I often have just what Mrs. PL saw in me before we got married.  Yes, dear reader, I thought there was nothing wrong with a dark blue shirt, green tie, tan trousers, and tan tartan checked sports jacket.  Worn together.  And we needn’t discuss the fact that my trousers were shortened in that grand American style which would leave you wondering where the flood was that I was expecting.

What does this have to do with data storage and protection?

The Computacenter Sharpen Your Business initiative is certainly about how we can demonstrably save a customer money across the length and breadth of their organisation.  However, if we look deeper one could also argue that the Sharpen Your Business initiative also addresses a common flaw in the development of technology solutions …often, in my expereience, technology solutions can be patchy when it comes to customers …we’re virtualising their environment, but perhaps we haven’t asked how they will store or backup the data.  We have a great reputation for providing desktop support, but perhaps the customer has no idea of the other great service and solution offerings we have which could help them realign their internal resources away from simply managing ‘stuff’ and back to helping their business innovate and stay competitive in a difficult market.  And this got me thinking.  IBM refer to this as ‘clothing’…we sold them the socks but forgot to ask him about the suit.  Now that Mrs. PL dresses me properly [I do have my off days when she isn’t around … let’s not talk about the pink socks] I can more fully appreciate just what it means to be ‘the finished article’ and the importance of wearing colours that are not only found in nature …but are meant to be worn together.  It gives a much bigger impact to others, and with neuroscientists telling us that most humans make a decision within three minutes of meeting someone new as to whether they will work with and trust them I need all the help I can get and can’t allow my clothing to be a barrier.

Our customers are faced with a similar problem.  Virtualising their ‘stuff’ is valuable and has ROI and demonstrable long term cost benefit …but won’t help them achieve true end to end cost benefit which translates into their ability to be more competitive.  Neither does storage tiering.  Nor data ‘dedupe’.  No, these are all point solutions that, left in isolation, will only yield limited benefit.  Tie them all together, mix in a bit of enterprise content management …file virtualisation …virtualised backup …consolidated maintenance contracts …automated storage and server provisioning …now we’re talking!  Imagine taking twenty internal IT personnel who understand your business intimately and redeploying them to business units to help your business stay competitive in a declining market …would you talk to a service and solutions provider who could help you do that?  Yeah, me too.

So when you get dressed on Monday, remember …we need to buy the whole suit, not just the socks.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me

Avoiding industry buzzword bingo.

12/08/2009

When I was in university I became extremely good friends with the librarians across campus.  This was more out of necessity than anything else as the information I required for papers and course research were often hidden in the private university stacks or considered ‘privileged’  material which had to be used in the library as opposed to being checked out an returned again.  Put simply, if I had any chance of meeting often aggressive timescales for my university coursework a strategically placed box of chocolates or cup of coffee was often a good way of ensuring I got access to the materials I needed.  Looking back I now realise just how labour intensive a process this was not only for me but for those poor librarians!

Flash forward seventeen years and now my niece will come in to ask me what she should Google and Wikipedia to get similar data.  Think about that for just a moment …people now use Google as a verb …when was the last time you saw a technology introduced just ten short years ago enter the lexicon as not only a noun, but also a verb?  Don’t worry, I am not going to wax lyrical about Google but what I do think is that Google as a technology and a company is having a profound impact on our lives.  Gone are the labour intensive librarian lookups as information is rapidly becoming accessible anytime anywhere.

What does this have to do with data storage and protection?

Whilst I am fascinated by the mathematic logarithms and high performance computing / data storage technologies required to optimise data searches, what also interests me are the very real operating expense reductions that technologies like Google can bring.  By allowing students to ‘google’ their data or, more to the point, by giving them the ability to find and access data without librarian intermediaries, the university gets to reduce operating expenditures [OPEX] as well as the student reducing their OPEX as the research and retrieval processes become far shorter.

In saying that, someone recently highlighted to me that we need to ensure that we don’t fall prey to the buzzword bingo of our industry in bandying terms like ‘CAPEX/OPEX reduction’ about without ensuring we are articulating what is behind these terms.  Fair point.  What sets us apart from our competition is our ability to understand and articulate the difference between return on investment and cost benefit analysis …how quickly can I get a return on my investment and what money will I save long term after it has been installed are hugely important during this recession and, arguably at all times frankly …but also our ability to demonstrably show a customer HOW we would help them achieve capital expenditure avoidance and operating expense reduction.  This is what the Sharpen Your Business initiative is all about within Computacenter, and here’s the kicker …we can show them WHERE we have done this for other customers.  Link this all up and we’re miles ahead of our competition!

Backup consolidation and virtualisation is one such area.  For the life of me I don’t know why data backup and restoration sometimes becomes a poor cousin with IT projects, but in my experience it represents one of the best ROI and CAPEX avoidance / OPEX reduction scenarios going.  Some vendors such as EMC, IBM, Fujitsu, HP, and Symantec are introducing backup products or upgrade to their existing backup products which consolidate technologies such as data deduplication and data archiving directly into the backup product to reduce backup data sizes and the amount of active data being stored …and hey, why not?  If the data hasn’t been accessed in 6 weeks or more …or is duplicated several times over …why would I want to back it all up and store it?!  Another interesting angle is CommVault who have introduced a Google-like front end to their product which allow business users to search for a file or files they have lost and …here’s the clever bit …restore it themselves with no interaction from a backup admin.  Brilliant!  Now that is demonstrable OPEX reduction and not buzzword bingo!

My guess is that in these uncertain economic times customers are already looking for solutions which help them reduce their costs so that they can not only survive but thrive.  Bill McGloin and the Data consultancy team have done a great job to design and deliver backup consolidation projects, so if you might be interested in understanding how a consolidated and virtualised backup environment could help you reduce costs [and frankly I’d be surprised if you didn’t!] please contact me as I’m only too happy to help.

Have a great day and keep on Googlin’.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me

The storage black box.

10/08/2009

As many of you may know, I am a bit of an aviation enthusiast.  Yes, okay for those that I have bored with discussions about the fuel consumption of an Airbus A380 versus the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner would say that I’m an airplane geek.  Fair enough.

One of the things that I wondered when I first became seriously interested in airplanes was, if the black box is the only thing guaranteed to survive a crash why don’t they just make the whole plane out of the black box material?  The answer is actually a bit more complicated than you might expect, but the short answer is that it is down to compromises and tradeoffs.  Put simply, the airplane would be too expensive to make and would be far too heavy to fly were it to be made to the same exacting standards and of the same material as the black box.

I have been thinking about these tradeoffs and comprimises a lot recently as we still find ourselves in the perfect storm of a credit crunch, increasing oil prices, and increasing C02 legislation.  As I’m sure you have seen, oil is now topping $139 with the largest two day increases back to back in history, many of the top banks have greatly reduced and changed their mortgage portfolios, and the UK government recently changed the air tax from a per passenger fee to a per plan fee.  Individually these events would be interesting enough, taken together they are likely to have a profound effect on our economy and world both now and in the future.

In such circumstances this will inveitably lead our customers to make compromises.

What does this have to do with data storage and protection?

As we head into H2 for 2009 and through the current recession, we must constantly bear these events and customer needs for compromise [e.g. we’d like to introduce storage consolidation but just can’t afford it….sell me some more disk please!] in mind to ensure that we are uncovering all opportunities and mapping them to the Computacenter end-to-end value proposition and individual point propositions.  No doubt we can certainly help a customer make compromise without sacrificing quality whilst transforming their estate for the better.  Here’s a few ways how.

1. ROI – Our ROI calculators go some way in showing a customer how investment in a CC proposition is not only the right thing to do technically, but also cost effective and generates real cost savings.  Even if a customer hasn’t asked for ROI calculations specifically, remember that we must give the customer what he has asked for in addition to the things he hasn’t asked for.  Storage Consolidation, Storage Virtualisation, and Virtualised Backup Consolidation, and related propositions all have real world and industry proven ROI.  Equally, they give us an opportunity to provide cost underwriting for our customers where required.  Please contact me if you need help calculating ROI for any storage challenges you are working on now or in future.

2. Virtualise, Virtualise Virtualise! – If location, location, location is the mantra of property development virtualisation should surely be the mantra of cost reduction in the datacentre.  Server virtualisation, application virtualisation, desktop virtualisation, and let’s not forget storage virtualisation all have the capacity to reduce the customer datacentre footprint which leads to greatly reduced management costs, power costs, floor space costs, etc.  Please contact me if you need help formulating a virtualisation strategy for any business propositions you are working on now or in future.

3. Data deduplication / File & DB Archiving – 12 to 18 months ago a customer had to engage at the third party level to introduce data deduplication and/or effective file & DB archiving.  Recently we have seen data deduplication moving directy into the storage fabric, directly on to storage hardware, and being included in backup software.  IBM’s acquisition of Diligent, EMC’s acquisition of Data Domain, Symantec’s inclusion of dedupe within their backup suite, and deduplication offerings within major vendor arrays [e.g. Netapp, EMC, IBM, HDS, et al] are but of few of the many examples we now have.  This is great news for us and great news for our customers as well as dedupe and file & DB archiving have real world cost savings associated wtih them.  Please contact me if you need help in presenting data dedupe / file & DB archiving for any storage propositions you are working on now or in future.

4. Reduce the Physical Storage Footprint – The reduction of the physical storage footprint through consolidation represents a very easy way for customers to reduce costs whilst transforming their estate.  The introduction of a virtual tape library with data deduplication abilities into an ageing customer tape backup environment, consolidation of file server shares to a shared storage fabric, and the virtualisation of existing and future storage arrays are but some of the many examples we could cite in this space.  Remember that consolidation leads to a reduction in physical footprint / DC space thus leading to cost savings.  Please contact me if you need help positioning consolidation for any propositions you are working on now or in future.

Finally, what does the future hold for storage in our current economic and environmental climate?  All of the major vendors have recognised that business as usual is anything but and are moving to introduce technologies which will improve storage management, reduce customer costs, and introduce greener equipment.  To wit, I know of a customer in the City who hires two complete datacentre floos for their DR site…one floor to hold the equipment and another floor which remains empty but has all power diverted to the other floor’s equipment.  Not what we would call efficient!

IBM are currently working on new power and cooling technologies for their equipment, EMC are introducing solid state disk and disk ‘spin down’ technologies to reduce power consumption in their equipment, HP’s introduction of Thermal Zone Mapping and Dynamic Smart Cooling…the list grows larger each day and, whilst we remain produly vendor agnostic and solution centric, it is always good to be able to discuss how major vendors are aligning to Computacenter’s market leading Green Datacentre initiatives. (more…)

Is optimisation really that difficult?

15/07/2009

I absolutely love working for Computacenter generally and what I do for a living specifically.  I get to work with some amazing people, meet with interesting customers, work on challenging solutions, see fascinating technologies from vendors …what’s not to like?!  That said, I know that the most important job I will ever truly have is that of father and husband …and that time is the most precious and finite commodity we have.  I can easily and without reservation name the two best days of my life thus far; getting married to my wife Sarah [aka Mrs PL] and the birth of our son Louis [aka PL Junior].

I’m quite sure that I am not alone in this …and I always smile when someone boots up their laptop and their family is smiling back as the screensaver, but let’s be honest …none of us really truly knows how much time we have, and yet we often spend it like it was in limitless supply.

Now, I sometimes get the balance wrong, but truth be told I would like to spend more time with my family as I’m sure we all would.  Having a child changes things forever, and I have noticed that I am much more ‘precious’ with my time since PL Junior was born almost three years ago.  Indeed, I am always on the lookout for new and more efficient ways of doing things and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in the past three years is that trying to find a half day here or a full day there to ‘make up’ time is next to impossible and has a low probability of success.  What does seem to be possible, and I’ve had much success with, is finding more efficient methods of doing things which ‘give back’ 5 minutes here or 10 minutes there …add them up and you will find the half day, full day [or more] that you were looking for.

Don’t believe me?  Why don’t people use VCRs anymore …because Sky+ is much more efficient and better quality.  When is the last time you heard the digital squelch of a dial-up modem …broadband gets faster with each year, and WiFi has made access remarkably simple in the home …and the time we spend on the internet trying to get information that much more efficient.  Do you still have a Sony Walkman or play records on a turntable  ….nah, me neither as iPods, iTunes, and Spotify have made downloading and listening to music ridiculously easy and far more efficient than popping down HMV to buy the latest ‘Take That’ album which will only play tracks in succession anyway.

What does this have to do with Storage and Data Protection?

I have been amused recently to have some vendors remark that they have heard I am ‘in love’ with this or that vendor’s storage technology.  For the record [no pun intended], I’m not ‘in love’ with any technology …I don’t give a badgers backside if vendor A can move a data bit faster from Edinburgh to London faster than vendor B.  Truth is ‘speeds and feeds’ are not really what impress customers, and I can see why vendor A’s solution would be applicable for a customer under certain circumstances and vendor B’s solution would be applicable given others …it is futile, in my opinion, to turn such things into ‘religious’ arguments …I’ve got a religion, and it’s not storage.

What I am ‘in love’ with is how a vendor solution can demonstrably reduce a Computacenter customer’s costs and optimise their business infrastructure.  The recent launch of our Sharpen Your Business initiative is hugely useful to our customers as it shows them how to demonstrably lower their IT costs without sacrificing functionality or putting their business at risk.

Picking up on this theme, I would argue that our customers in the current climate are both carefully controlling their expenditures as well as seeking ways to gain back time …in other words, trying to make sure that every minute they spend is useful to the bottom line without sacrificing quality or customer service with their customers in turn.  Equally, I’m quite certain that were we to walk into a customer meeting and state ‘I can show you how you could spend more time with your family without sacrificing any quality at work, in fact you might be able to increase your quality’ we would get their attention!

We often talk about the ‘what’ when it comes to technology …and I’ll put my hand up in that sometimes it can be confusing as to what, exactly thin provisioning, virtualised backup and zero page reclamation are for example.  Watch this space as I am working on some collateral which should, hopefully, make this a bit less confusing.

More importantly, however, we’ve begun to speak in earnest about the ‘why’ to consider implementing technology, for example the Sharpen Your Business initiative…and, to be fair, the decision makers in our customers want to know both why from a cost benefit perspective and from a return on investment perspective our solution makes sense to implement now.  We’ve plenty of collateral in this area, and again …watch this space as more will be released over the coming weeks / months.

I’d like to also see us ‘cut to the chase’ with customers around key storage technologies and how they can save them time by increasing their efficiency, understanding that the collateral exists regarding the ‘what’ and ‘how’ should the customer wish to know more.

Why automated storage provisioning? Because we can automate highly repeatable storage provisioning tasks, allowing you to reallocate storage admins to more meaningful work …because we’ve saved you time.

Why virtualised backup? Because we can optimise your backup environment from a pure tape environment to a virtualised backup environment, allowing you to reallocate backup admins to more meaningful work … because we’ve saved you time.

Why thin provisioning? Because it is a more efficient method of storage allocation and will allow you to buy far less storage following implementation and perhaps no new storage required for several years to come …and because we’ve saved you time.

Why data deduplication? Because you are storing band backing up multiple copies of the same pieces of data, and data deduplication can remove all of this inefficiency allowing you to reallocate backup and storage admins to more meaningful work … because we’ve saved you time.

Why ZPR [Zero Page Reclamation]? Because we can give you back 30% of the storage you think you are using but aren’t actually, thus saving you money and giving you in year ROI.

Just a few ‘starters for ten’, and comments always welcome for more!

Time is precious, let’s help our customers save every minute they possibly can by optimising their datacentres.