Disaster recovery is commonly associated with complex configurations and high costs. Data replication for DR means there is a lot of duplicated equipment and facilities, including networking, administration, as well as power and cooling. More importantly, there are many things to manage such as storage capacity and performance, network bandwidth and traffic and data growth.
But, as Bob Dylan sang, "the times, they are changin'". Just as cloud technology brought a paradigm shift to application deployments, people are seeing similar game-changing developments with cloud disaster recovery too. One of the biggest cloud shifts is removing the requirement for a separate DR site that will save the day when everything goes belly up. Instead IT leaders are recognizing the power of the cloud to store their disaster recovery data more effectively and for far less cost. Using the cloud for disaster recovery provides the following key benefits:
- Cloud disaster recovery transfers infrastructure costs to cloud service providers
- Cloud disaster recovery facilitates DR testing and validation
- Cloud disaster recovery eliminates physical tapes and tape management
- Cloud disaster recovery provides flexibility for the recovery location
- Cloud disaster recovery centralizes DR storage from multiple sites, including ROBOs
- Cloud disaster recovery improves RTOs (recovery time objectives)
- Cloud disaster recovery enables recovery-in-the-cloud
Let's look at each of these benefits more closely.
Transfer infrastructure costs
Equipment and resources for DR have costs with a very small chance of generating a return on the investment. There is no point in owning resources such as storage, networking, servers, racks, power and cabling that you hope to never use. Clearly, the cloud mantra of paying only for what is used applies here. You don't overpay for insurance with cloud disaster recovery.
Of course everything has to work when you need it to. The interesting thing about cloud disaster recovery is that it is even easier to test and validate than traditional DR because it can be done without interrupting production systems. Many of our customers at StorSimple cite this as a very important benefit.
One of the worst parts of any recovery operation is anything and everything involving tapes. Naming tapes, loading tapes, unloading tapes, moving tapes, retensioning tapes, copying tapes, deleting tapes, disposing tapes, tapes, tapes and tapes. They aren't needed with cloud disaster recovery.
Recovery location flexibility
Recovering data from the cloud can happen at any site with a reasonably good Internet connection. Moreover, it can happen at multiple sites, which means it is easier to make contingency plans for multiple-site complications as well as being able to spread the recovery load over more resources.
Centralize DR storage
Another aspect of location flexibility with DR is the ability for companies to store DR data in the cloud from many sites or remote branch offices (ROBOs). While each site or branch office will have a unique URL to store their data, the access to this data is centralized in the cloud where it can all be easily accessed from a single Internet connection in their primary data center. In other words, the DR data from any ROBO can be instantly accessed at headquarters.
The data that is needed to resume operations after a disaster can be limited to only the data that is needed by applications - as opposed to downloading multiple tape images in-full and restoring data from them. This can save weeks during a large scale recovery. Data that is not needed immediately does not consume any bandwidth or other resources that would interfere with the restore process. This approach to data recovery uses a concept called "the working set", which is the collection of data that is being used by applications. Working-set based cloud disaster recovery is the most efficient way to recover data.
Related to recovery flexibility is the ability to resume operations in the cloud by using cloud compute services. In this case, the DR data stays in the cloud where it is accessed by cloud-resident applications. Application users connect to the application through a connection to their cloud service provider. The data that stays in the cloud needs to be presented to the application in its usual fashion - as a file share, for instance.
I haven't found a good list of Enterprise Cloud Storage service providers online, so I thought I'd put one together here, trying to be unbiased, in alphabetical order.
This list does not include consumer cloud services like Box, YouSendIt or Dropbox that people use for sharing files with others or to retrieve on other devices they own. This list of Enterprise Cloud Storage service providers contains storage services that business or government IT organizations would use for storing corporate data. Some of the traditional applications for these services are backup, archiving and disaster recovery, but they also include cloud-enabled apps such as tiering inactive, unstructured data and data mobility for migrating data to the cloud where it can be used for cloud computing.
If we feel any names have been left off this list, please feel free to comment and at some point we'll update the blog posting.
Amazon Web Services
Network 180 is a social services organization in Grand Rapids, Michigan that connects individuals and their families to services for mental illness, substance use disorders, or developmental disabilities.
And they are a StorSimple customer. As the result of consolidated multiple offices to a single building, Network 180 no longer had an in-house way of protecting data from a site disaster. Considering the nature of their customer's patient records, Network 180 needed a solution for archiving as well as disaster recovery protection.
Tim Care, the network administrator at Network 180, spoke with us recently about their experiences using StorSimple Cloud-integrated Storage as a solution for storing, archiving and backing up their email, SharePoint and file share data. A key part of the solution is the integrated disaster recovery protection with their cloud storage service provider - Microsoft's Windows Azure Storage. As Tim points out, this gives Network 180 the ability to recover at virtually any location should they ever need to, which means they do not have to have the additional cost of maintaining a secondary data center for DR purposes.
Terry Barbounis was asked to help the First Church of Christ, Scientist and The Christian Science Monitor come up with a plan to reduce their infrastructure costs through the use of cloud technology. As he analyzed the potential for cost cutting, one of the things he found was the relatively large amount of unstructured data that was not being accessed.
As he investigated further he found out about StorSimple's products that were designed to bring efficient management to something that is a an overlooked mess in most organizations. Not only that, but they were able to setup multiple accounts for the various departments, which meant they could charge back the costs of storage with much more accuracy than they ever had before.
Terry told his story at the Amazon Web Services Summit in New York back on April 19th. I recorded his presentation with a voice recorder, edited it and added the presentation slides from a couple different versions to make this video. If you ever get the chance to see Terry in action, I highly recommend him. He brings a lot of energy and humor to his presentations.
Our customer Dan Streufert from MedPlast flew into Dallas on a day when there were tornadoes touching down throughout the Metroplex to present at SNW Spring 2012 about cloud storage and their experience using cloud-integrated storage from StorSimple.
As an OEM manufacturer for the medical device industry, Medplast needed a comprehensive archive solution to store historical records. What they found was primary storage that included deduplication, compression, encryption, automated storage tiering (including tiering to the cloud) and integrated data protection that replaced their tape-based system with cloud snapshots. They also appreciate how disaster recover protection is integrated as well and that their cloud service provider fulfills the role of the DR site. It's a lot of stuff and MedPlast is taking advantage of all of it.
We appreciate our customers and are very glad to continue working with people like Dan who are so enthusiastic about the technology we are building.Here is the video:
Cisco Systems recently published the results of a survey of 1300 IT professionals on cloud priorities and challenges. The survey results can be found here
One of the things that really stands out is that customers see Cloud service providers like Amazon, Azure, Google; industry analysts and their peers as more credible information sources for cloud decisions than infrastructure vendors. We think that this is one of the indicators that the customers are seeing through cloud-washing.
A couple of other interesting results in this survey also are
1. Storage as the top application for migration to the cloud - ahead of SaaS (Salesforce.com etc.), email and collaboration.
2. Customers recognize that it is easier to move to public cloud then deploy private clouds..
A wide range for Fortune 1000 enterprises across verticals like retail, consumer goods, energy, manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, media and healthcare as well as government customers have done their first production cloud deployments with StorSimple. Most of our customers have gone with public cloud services. So it is nice to see another independent survey verify those trends.
What vendors like CommVault and Riverbed are not telling you.
Cloud Backup works provides a good way for consumers and small businesses to backup their data. However, at enterprise data volumes where primary data sets run in 10s and 100s of TB, traditional cloud backup does not work. The reasons are – recovery times are unacceptably long and that cloud backup does not reduce data protection costs.
For example, consider a customer with 100TB of primary production data and a dedicated 50 Mbps WAN link to the cloud storage service provider such as Amazon, Azure or Google. If this data was backed up to the cloud using CommVault or Riverbed + NetBackup, the data that is sitting in the cloud is in the backup applications proprietary format. In the event of a disaster all the data in the cloud has be to retrieved from the cloud before the applications comes online. Even if the backup application gave 2:1 compression of your primary data, it would take 100 days to read this 100TB from the cloud storage service across the 50 Mbps WAN link. That length time is unacceptable for most enterprises. Hence, most of them still use tape if the recovery time objective is around a week.
If the primary data was on a cloud integrated enterprise storage solution like StorSimple, then the application level recovery using cloud snapshots is much faster. For example, in the above scenario with a StorSimple system, the applications with 100TB of data can be recovered and brought online in 1 day.
The ROI cost conversation, is also equally insightful because the use of traditional cloud backup solutions does not remove the need for the enterprise to have all the hardware infrastructure for primary storage, disk based backup storage, media servers and backup software. Also – if the customer needs any reasonable time for recovery in a disaster, then a second system is need for replicating data. In contrast with cloud integrated enterprise storage like StorSimple that combine the functions of primary, backup, archive and disaster recovery with seamless cloud integration, the TCO for storage and data management goes down by 60-80%. See the table below for some ballpark numbers for a customer with 50TB of production data.
StorSimple customers like the fact that our systems do things for them that with legacy storage would take either a lot of time or a lot of money. Sundance Institute, the people who run the Sundance Film Festival, are StorSimple customers who have simplified their operations by streamlining backup and avoided buying storage they don't really need.
Justin Simmons is a long-time IT professional and the associate director of Technology Services for the Sundance Institute. If you didn't click on the link above, here is a quote of his that sums it up pretty well.
“StorSimple has freed up a lot of resources on our existing storage, so we are able to delay or potentially entirely put off what would have been a very expensive new SAN purchase, and instead of spending potentially half her time managing backups, our system administrator is no longer buried under a backup storage shell game. With StorSimple backing up straight to the cloud, she can now use her time to work on new projects and new initiatives for the Sundance Institute.”
If you want to check out an incredible technology facility, visit the nearest Microsoft Technology Center (MTC). I went to the Mountain View, CA MTC today with my co-worker Burzin Patel and we were given a tour by MTC architects Kui Jia and Luis Salazar. We spoke about the types of customer engagements they have and I was blown away by the depth of technology and sevrices at their disposal. From informational briefings to solutions designs to proof of concepts to benchmarking, the teams at the MTCs are prepared to help customers understand exactly how to make their technology work. By the way, this includes working with Microsoft's Azure cloud - including storage integrated with StorSimple Cloud Integrated Enterprise Storage.
Part of these advanced engagements involve working in Microsoft's state of the art technology labs that are full of products from Microsoft partners such as HP, Dell, Cisco, EMC, Netapp, F5, Brocade, StorSimple and others. You have to see it to believe it, so here are a couple photos.
First, a StorSimple Cloud-Integrated Enterprise Storage System (at the bottom of the rack)
Here is a shot that shows a lot more of the equipment in their state of the art technology lab:
We all like a little recognition from time to time and we are excited to receive the 2011 Product of the Year in the Storage Systems Category from Storage Magazine.
Here is what the judges had to say about our products:
An award like this is an important marker, demonstrating our recent success in 2011. The thing that is ultimately gratifying, however, is the engagement we have with our growing customer base, who are trusting StorSimple to do things that they never even imagined a few months ago. We look forward to making cloud storage as useful and transparent as possible throughout 2012.