Mario Blandini is Vice President of Marketing for SwiftStack.
Backup is about as low as it gets on the glamor scale in IT architecture and operations. Most take backup for granted. However, for the few who are responsible for recovering from calamities and for reproducing data reactively or proactively in their enterprise, backup is an intimate affair.
Many backup beholders have been turned-off to object storage for a variety of good reasons. Object storage has promised to be low cost and easy to use, but historically it has not proven to deliver these benefits. Object storage in and of itself does not make backup any better. However, the right architecture with object storage and specific properties designed for backup architectures can turn haters into lovers.
Overcoming Past Perception
When it comes to backup, practicality matters. Object is not as new as one might think. In the context of backup, products have been available since 2008. Object storage vendors have been making a fuss about revolutionizing backup for years. Like any new storage technology, especially one that aims to improve on the cost of storage capacity, it first gets targeted for use in backup. Performance is king for primary storage; on the other hand, for backup, low cost for high capacity is king.
Having grown up on backup, the architecture of the original private object storage products simply did not prove to be lower in cost or easier to use than other file storage. Object storage has been hardware-centric, with solution lock-in and implementation complexity, where the break-even capacity point was above what anyone in backup would have practically used. In short, object storage has not always provided value for the common backup architecture and operations stakeholder. No wonder backup gurus aren’t big on what they understand object storage to be.
The Cloud Has Changed the Market
Backup applications did not support object storage in 2008, but since then support for cloud storage APIs in backup applications has become practically universal. This has been driven by customers wanting the option of backing up to popular services like Amazon S3, which is object storage. Amazon S3 started with the benefits of pay as you grow, anywhere access, and unlimited scalability.
That said, few backup stakeholders think of Amazon S3 as object storage but instead that it is public cloud. Like other backup targets, public cloud has its pros and cons, with restoration speed being a negative given its impact on recovering from a calamity. As the statement goes in the IT world, “You won’t get a raise for backing up data well, but you will get fired if you can’t restore it fast”.
I Own Backups. What’s in it for Me?
When evaluating options in private cloud object storage, look for an architecture for backup that provides the best advantages of disk and cloud backup, with the economic advantages of tape. This solution should have a core strong enough for hundreds of PBs in cloud service providers, with a controller that makes it easy enough for any backup administrator to deploy and manage.
Modern backup applications can be configured to take advantage of advanced architecture and dramatically reduce backup windows. Unlike NAS or SAN targets with finite controller resources, scale-out architecture available today uses a tier of ingest servers that scales independently and can accept very high parallel I/O or “concurrency.” Instead of having to buy an entirely new highway to support growing backup traffic, you can cost effectively scale-out with additional lanes on your backup highway using standard hardware.
TCO is everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to backup. Fortunately the advanced solution available today can decrease backup costs as it is built on standard cost-effective hardware, the same type of gear on which you run your backup software. What was once a specialty feature, data deduplication for backup is now also widely pervasive among applications. Also look for a solution that has disaster recovery across data centers built-in, enabling further cost saving opportunities off-site compared to conventional backup infrastructure.
I Sell Backup. Should I Feel Love?
For those who did not like object storage the first time, let’s hope the advancements inspire IT to take another look. Your value-added resellers and service providers can help customers advance the state of the art in backup scale and efficiency.
Tape solutions, then disk solutions, then deduplication appliances were the best fit for your customers in the past. Now utilizing object storage in its modern form gives enterprises the desired cost savings and scale-out architecture needed to add more capacity.
Object Finds Love
Object storage is not new. Most object storage offerings can even be seen as being “long in the tooth.” It’s important to separate past offerings from today’s advanced architecture and see the relevance it has for backup solutions. It is not object storage itself. Instead, it's how one objects from an architecture perspective that provides compelling value for meeting enterprise backup needs in 2015 and beyond.
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