Posts Tagged ‘data deduplication’

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.

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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.