Build Data Protection In as an Element of the Architecture
It’s fair to ask “Why is designing data protection into the architecture from the start any better than adding it onto an existing platform?”
Well, think about renovating a house. If it’s a ranch-style home that was originally built on a slab, and the owner decides they want a basement and a second story, they have big problems. You can certainly add those things, but it’s not easy. And the results probably aren’t going to be as good as if it were designed and built that way in the first place. It’s likely to take longer and cost more, too.
This analogy is directly applicable to hyperconverged infrastructure platforms. You can simply do things better when you look at them holistically instead of after the fact. For example, as data is ingested by SimpliVity hyperconverged infrastructure, it is automatically globally deduplicated and compressed, and remains that way forever – no rehydrating, no post processing, no specialized WAN optimization when shipping anything across the wire. This means that backups are always performed on highly optimized data, so they’re only done as full backups, with no need for incrementals—ever. This makes them quick, light touch and highly space-efficient.
When SimpliVity created its platform, one of the design goals was to “abstract the policy from the infrastructure,” meaning that they wanted the user to always be operating at a high level, not worrying about the nuts and bolts of how things work. This principle is best illustrated by looking at how you add a hyperconverged infrastructure node to a SimpliVity Federation. You merely have to plug it into the network, and it’s automatically recognized by the rest of the members and starts running. There’s no user-level configuration that needs to be done —no IP addresses to set, no storage pools to map, no other sites to inform about the addition, etc. It just works. With backup, this means that it becomes an easy and high-level process that seamlessly fits in to the existing workflow. To protect a VM, for example, you merely specify how often you want to make a copy of it, how long you want to keep the copies and where you want to save them. If you migrate a protected VM to another appliance, the backup policy migrates with it. There’s no setup, configuration or scripting required.
So, this new approach to hyperconverged data protection offers a lot of upside, but what’s the downside? There isn’t any downside that’s specific to data protection being integrated in to the product architecture instead of being an add-on; integration is all positive.
Instead, the downside to having integrated data protection is the same as having add-on data protection: If there’s some feature in some backup package that you really want, but it doesn’t show up in the platform product roadmap, you may be out of luck. Another is, as mentioned above, when you’re depending on one vendor to provide everything, you might not get it all right away. For example, when SimpliVity released its initial product, it did not have the ability to do file- or folder-level restore; it was only a full backup and full recovery only. In the current release, file-level recovery functionality is now in place.
Effectively, by integrating data protection in to its hyperconverged platform, SimpliVity is pulling secondary data workloads into its architecture, blurring the long-standing difference between primary and secondary storage and carving out an even larger market for itself. After data protection, there’s still DevOps and data analytics that could be integrated. SimpliVity, with its always-on global deduplication and highly efficient copies, is well positioned to do it all. It will be interesting to see how SimpliVity’s architecture evolves to encompass these use cases.
Choosing a Data Protection Strategy
With this new paradigm introduced by SimpliVity, there are now several very different strategies in play in the hyperconverged infrastructure space. Certainly, each approach will have its adherents, but if you’ve decided that you don’t want to incur the extra expense of third-party backup software and the capabilities that come with the platform meet your needs, you need to look at SimpliVity and its built-in data protection.
So, which approach is best for you?
Short answer: it depends on how much of a pain point data protection is for your organization, and your intention to use hyperconvergence to help address it.
However, just as the deployment of virtualization in your data center in the last few years was disruptive for data protection, hyperconverged infrastructure is another catalyst event that could be a forcing function for you to reconsider your data protection approach. The simplification of infrastructure, associated services and operations may allow you to also simplify your data protection. If you’re evaluating hyperconverged infrastructure solutions, just don’t let data protection be an afterthought.
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